Club Focus – Napoli – Vesuviani remain near summit of Serie A after impressive defeat of Bologna

After losing to second-placed Lazio last week at the Olimpico, it was surely to be expected that Napoli’s unrealistic position of third in Serie A would evaporate into a more usual ambition. However, their grip on third place has never been stronger after blowing away a crisis-ridden Bologna at the San Paolo on Sunday evening.
After losing to Lazio, Walter Mazzarri bemoaned his club’s demanding fixture list and claimed that without Europa League commitments on Thursday nights, Napoli could be even higher in the league. However, for the first time this season, Napoli had a week to rest their weary legs before welcoming Bologna in Sunday’s evening kick-off.
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Mazzarri was able to name his strongest side, with Fabiano Santacroce, Paolo Cannavaro and Hugo Campagnaro in front of goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis. Christian Maggio, Michele Pazienza, Walter Gargano and Andrea Dossena made up the midfield, with Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi supporting Edinson Cavani.
For those who thought Napoli may crumble after last week’s defeat, it took less than two minutes to silence them, as Maggio headed in Lavezzi’s corner for his first goal of the season. Oddly enough, Maggio has now scored in the last three editions of this fixture. Although Napoli lost their skipper Cannavaro to injury after 13 minutes, they would double their lead before half-time. Cavani’s persistence paid off and he laid the ball to Hamsik on the edge of the box, who found the back of the net thanks to a deflection.
It was 3-0 a couple of minutes into the second half as Napoli really cranked up the pressure. Another Lavezzi corner was helped on by both Campagnaro and Pazienza, and Hamsik was presented with a tap-in for his second goal of the match. Although a powerful Riccardo Meggiorini header pulled a goal back for Bologna, the match finished 4-1 when Cavani stroked home a Lavezzi cross with 16 minutes left. It was a resounding performance and result by the Vesuviani who have once again proved that a top-four finish is within their grasp this season.
Napoli were perhaps aided by a rare period of rest in the seven days prior to the encounter with Bologna. Despite their healthy league position, only five players were away on international duty with their national teams, none of which were representing Italy. De Sanctis and Maggio were both in last summer’s World Cup squad but are not currently considered by new coach Cesare Prandelli.
De Sanctis regularly played second or third fiddle to Gianluigi Buffon in Marcello Lippi’s reign as national team boss. Regardless of his form this season though, at the age of 33 it is understandable that the Napoli goalkeeper is no longer considered for Italy, with younger options preferred. His time has gone, and De Sanctis must surely look back with disappointment at having won just three caps for his country.
Maggio, who is 28-years-old, has a better chance of adding to his six Azzurri caps. He was second-choice right-back in South Africa, and although he never played he seems to have been cast aside with the majority of that underachieving Italian squad. However, Prandelli has tried numerous options at right-back without success and Maggio must come into consideration if he keeps up his club form. For Napoli he is a converted right winger which may be his undoing in Prandelli’s eyes.
Dossena is another player who must enviously look at the left-backs in the national team. Like Maggio, he has been converted into a winger for Napoli although his real position remains as a left-back. Prandelli has also had troubles in this position, but Dossena’s last Italy appearance remains somewhat fresh in the memory. He was part of the disastrous Confederations Cup team, and scored an own-goal against Brazil. It seems the 29-year-old still hasn’t shaken off that awful tournament in the view of Prandelli and may have to settle for his 10 previous caps.
Napoli’s international players had mixed results last week. Lavezzi played 45 minutes of Argentina’s win over Brazil and impressed up-front alongside Lionel Messi. Italy Under-20 striker Nicolao Dumitru scored but couldn’t prevent defeat to Germany. Hamsik’s Slovakia lost to Bosnia, while Cavani and Gargano’s Uruguay lost to Chile. Gargano was even sent off for his country.
Napoli will be delighted with another solid week of recuperation before their next Serie A match against 11th-placed Udinese, with no Europa League ties in midweek. Napoli know that Juventus, Roma and Inter are all breathing down their necks and to hold them off for the time being, another three points needs to be earned on the road.

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