Friday, September 20, 2013
The Week of the Neopolitans
The midweek events at the San Paolo were the first part of an incredibly defining week for Napoli fans. A 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund was the best way possible for Benitez to debut with his new club in the Champions League. Although he'll have to acknowledge that something in the Borussia Dortmund's system collapsed in that match, and that something was the man that is Jurgen Klopp. The man, the pillar of the club which pushed them to the top of German football with a beautiful style of play. In the 29th minute as Subotic was coming back on after being patched up for a nasty gash near the eyebrow, Napoli took their corner, the central defender was sprinting towards his box hoping to reach his man he needed to mark. While he did get there in time, it was too late as the Dortmund defence had already been shaken by the confusion and the unforgiving Higuain headed Napoli into the lead.
Klopp collapsed, rage overcame him and his facial muscles as he menacingly advanced and protested to the closest official near him. But his release of anger and frustration did not amuse or impress anyone, and he was quickly dismissed for his vehement protests. It wasn't much later that the colossal central defender Mats Hummels began touching his hamstring and had to be replaced by Aubameyang near the end of the first half. The first half also featured Borussia's keeper Weidenfeller receive a straight red card when he charged out of the box towards Higuain on the break and instinctually stopped the mid-air ball with his hands.
Napoli closed off the match without much trouble after that against a shattered 10-man Borussia Dortmund, largely thanks to a beautifully looped free kick by true hometown Neopolitan Lorenzo Insigne. While Borussia managed to squeeze out an own goal courtesy of Zuniga's attempt to clear the ball out of the box with his heel, the story of the night had already been written, as a crushed Borussia Dortmund fell to the imposing Italian opponents.
Compared to the immense optimism around Napoli, it seems like Milan are bracing themselves for what many have already said is a fundamental match. While Mexes is coming out saying that he'd always pick Balotelli over Higuain and that Milan is still at the start of their campaign, with the injuries of supposed key-signing Kaka to Poli, Montolivo, El Sharaawy, along with just about half the defence, Milan is looking very shaky even if they'll be playing at home.
It feels like while there could be an interesting tactical battle between how Benitez would break down Allegri's AC Milan side, right now it seems like Allegri has just about 11 players to work with compared to Benitez's fit and inspired squad. If this match is won by Napoli, it could be the beginning of a completely new era for the Serie A, which could possibly even extend to a strong Champions League run. While it's also important to acknowledge that the season is long and many surprises await us, from the way this week could go, it could very well become the season of the Neopolitans.