Celebrations are replaced by concern at Napoli amid a slow start to Serie A title defense

Thu, Oct 19, 2023
Soccer News (AP)

Celebrations are replaced by concern at Napoli amid a slow start to Serie A title defense

ROME (AP) - There are still blue-and-white streamers hanging over alleyways and banners all over the city celebrating Napoli's first Serie A title since the days when Diego Maradona played for the club.

There hasn't been much to celebrate lately in the southern city, though.

With only four wins in its opening eight matches and already two losses - both at home - Napoli is off to a much slower start to the season than it had a year ago when the Partenopei didn't lose until January and remained unbeaten at home until March.

So it's plain to see why new Napoli coach Rudi Garcia is already under pressure, with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis meeting several times with the coach recently amid speculation that Antonio Conte or some other manager might be called in as a replacement.

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Garcia, the Frenchman who formerly coached Roma, was hired after Luciano Spalletti left Napoli saying he needed to take a season off. Spalletti then took over Italy's national team when Roberto Mancini unexpectedly left that job to take on the same role in Saudi Arabia.

While Spalletti and the free-flowing attack he employed at Napoli are sorely missed, so too is center back Kim Min-jae. Kim, one of the revelations of last season, joined Bayern Munich in an expensive transfer.

Fiorentina dismantled Napoli's defense in a 3-1 win at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona before the international break. That came five days after a 3-2 home loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Now Garcia is missing his standout center forward after Victor Osimhen injured his right thigh while with Nigeria's national team.

"Napoli is in trouble," said Fabio Cannavaro, who began his career with the club before captaining Italy to the 2006 World Cup title. "It plays one very good match and then struggles a lot in the next game. This team is lacking continuity.

"When you change coaches there are always some issues," Cannavaro added. "But we're still only at the start and the club will figure things out. Napoli has a very strong roster."

For Saturday's match at Hellas Verona, Giovanni Simeone will likely replace Osimhen in attack, with Giacomo Raspadori another option. Osimhen was also injured early last season and Simeone and Raspadori stepped up to help extend Napoli's strong start.

Dribbling wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is set to play after getting married at home in Georgia during the break.

AMERICAN DERBY

When Juventus visits Serie A leader AC Milan at the San Siro on Sunday, there will be a strong American presence with four U.S. internationals involved.

Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah at Milan will be facing Juventus duo Weston McKennie and Tim Weah - the son of former Milan player George Weah.

It's shaping up as a key match for both sides' title ambitions, with second-place Inter Milan visiting Torino on Saturday.

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