25.09.2015 10:00 - in: Serie A S

      Napoli under the microscope

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      Having enjoyed recent successes in its rollercoaster ride of a history since its founding, Napoli will be looking to challenge once again in the upper reaches of the table this season

      Originally founded as Naples Football Club by Englishman William Poths in 1904, the club’s history has represented something of a rollercoaster ride for supporters, who have had to endure their fair share of yo-yoing between divisions before a more decorated period followed the pair of Coppa Italia successes in 1962 and 1976.

      In the late-eighties, the Partenopei eventually established themselves as a true force in the Italian game and, spurred on by Diego Maradona, they got their hands on the Scudetto title in 1987 and 1990, finishing as runners-up in the intervening years and lifting the UEFA Cup in 1989.

      However, financial decline off the pitch soon accompanied a downturn on it, as the club dropped down to the third division in 2004 and was declared bankrupt.

      Film producer and current owner Aurelio De Laurentiis stepped in that summer and helped Napoli secure back-to-back promotions to Serie A in 2006 and 2007.

      Since then, the side has moved upwards and onwards, qualifying for four of the last five editions of the Champions League and remains one of the sides to be challenging for domestic honours in 2015/16.

      The Manager

      Naples-born coach Maurizio Sarri took over the reins at the San Paolo this summer off the back of a successful three-year stint in charge of Empoli.

      The 56-year-old guided the Tuscan outfit to promotion back to Serie A in 2014 following a six-year absence and his former club were one of the surprise packages last season, as they persisted with their attractive, passing game to comfortably avoid relegation back to the second division.

      Sarri’s recent rise to fame represents something of a fairytale story for a manager who had managed in the lower leagues for 15 years before landing his first job in Serie B with Pescara in 2005, while 2014/15 represented his maiden campaign in the country’s top flight.

      The Stadium

      The San Paolo has been home to the Partenopei since 1959 and is the third largest ground in Italy after the San Siro and Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

      Named after the Saint who is said to have landed in the Fuorigrotta region where the 60,240 seater stadium was built, Napoli set the attendance record for Serie C, bringing in an average crowd of over 50,000 during their two seasons in the third tier.

      Juventus will be looking to build upon last January’s victory at the San Paolo, their first in eight years at the ground, with a 22nd Serie A success at the ground this Saturday.

      How are they shaping up this season?

      The biggest changes to Napoli’s line-up are in midfield, where new arrivals Allan and Mirko Valdifiori, bought from from Udinese and Empoli respectively, have replaced summer departures Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano. Meanwhile, the signing of Nathaniel Chalobah, who joins on loan from Chelsea, will provide competition for places in central areas, as the England Under 21 international looks to gain valuable experience of playing abroad.

      There are a couple of noteworthy additions also in defence: Romanian international centre-back Vlad Chiriches from Tottenham bolsters the backline, while right-back Elseid Hysaj is another ex-Empoli player to be teaming up with Sarri at the San Paolo. Between the sticks, Pepe Reina has returned after spending last season with Bayern Munich.

      The Partenopei are virtually unchanged up front, where they continue to have at their disposal a plethora of talented and technically-gifted forwards in Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens, José Callejon, Manolo Gabbiadini and Lorenzo Insigne.

      Although the side has started somewhat slowly to the current campaign, taking three points from their opening five games, Sarri’s charges have recorded two impressive 5-0 victories over Lazio and in their Europa League opener against Club Brugge.

      And they will hope to bring a greater level of consistency to their performances in the coming weeks and months in a bid to challenge for honours at home and abroad again this season.

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