Napoli needed a reaction after a disappointing start of the season under coach Rudi Garcia, who was sacked after the last International break. Aurelio De Laurentiis, the owner of the Italian side, decided to bring back a manager he had already hired once before, and chose Walter Mazzarri, the manager that returned the team to its winning ways when he managed from 2009 to 2013.
Mazzarri asked his players to have a quick reaction, and this is what happened in his first two games in charge. The Azzurri, in fact, won the first opening away game under Mazzarri away against Atalanta and then lost to Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. However, despite losing 4-2 in Madrid, Napoli showed some great signs to the manager, as the teams were even at 2-2 until the last ten minutes of the Champions League clash.
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Now, Napoli are called for a third crucial game in a row against Inter at the Stadio Maradona in Naples. Napoli will face the Serie A leaders and have a great chance to close the gap with the top of the table as Mazzarri's team are currently fourth, eight points behind the team coached by Simone Inzaghi. Inter are in a great form, and have only lost one game this season (against Sassuolo) and despite being qualified to the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, made an extraordinary comeback in Lisbon from 3-0 to 3-3 in the second half of the match.
How to watch and odds
- Date: Sunday, December 3 | Time: 2:45 p.m. ET
- Location: Stadio Maradona -- Naples, Italy
- Live stream: Paramount+
- Odds: Napoli +185; Draw: +240; Inter +140
Mazzarri didn't change much on the pitch. In fact, for the first time in his career, he's not playing with a three-back defensve line and continued to play with the 4-3-3 as Napoli played with this tactical system over the past two years, when they won the Scudetto under Luciano Spalletti, Garcia's predecessor. More than players, the Italian manager was able to restore the right mentality in his team, as De Laurentiis wanted. So there haven't been many changes on the pitch, but some drastic changes off the pitch and inside the minds of the players are responsible for the bounce.
There are two clear episodes of the past week that show this new atmosphere inside the dressing room, that seemed lost in the last weeks of the Garcia era at the club. After winning against Atalanta, Mazzarri went to cheer his team after the final whistle at the center of the pitch. When Khvicha Kvaratskhelia appeared in front of him, the two hugged each other and Mazzarri kissed Kvara on his head. It was a small but meaningful signal that he was able to get close to his players in just a few days.
Another signal that something has changed in the past ten days was the post-match interview of Giovanni Di Lorenzo, the captain, after the defeat against Real Madrid. Di Lorenzo spoke to Prime Video and said: "I look at the positive things. We played a good match and for few details these matches change. We were balanced, we created changes. The result certainly penalizes us, but the group is solid."
The fact that the captain of the club had a positive attitude after a defeat against Real Madrid itself it shouldn't be something to mention, but it marks a complete turn around in the captain's attitude from the end of Garcia's time in charge. So this is something worth mentioning. Napoli seem different now, and also have Osimhen back in form and ready to play against Inter on Sunday.
The game against the Nerazzurri will definitely tell us more about Napoli's comeback and the status of the team. A win against Inter might also bring Mazzarri's team back in the title race conversation and will also raise questions about Inter and their run for Serie A Scudetto.