Injuries ease as Milan host Napoli

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Marco Luzzani/Getty ImagesIt has been 27 years since Milan last lost to Napoli at the San Siro, including last April's 1-1 draw.

Having come through what Massimiliano Allegri hopes has been the worst period of the latest injury crisis, Milan host Rafa Benitez and Napoli this weekend, who arrive at the San Siro with a 100 percent record thus far this season.

Along with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, the Partenopei are part of a trio of clubs who have successfully won all of their domestic games to date as well as their Champions League opener earlier this week.

All this despite the loss of Edinson Cavani this summer, with the southern giants appearing to have benefited from the Spanish revolution and overall squad strengthening that has since followed.

As a result, they arrive in Milan full of both belief and confidence, with many tipping them to end a 27-year wait for victory under the eyes of the Madonnina, and with Benitez ready to continue in his role as the tactical mastermind behind their most recent surge.

In contrast, with a squad decimated by injuries, Milan have been bitterly disappointing up to this point as they battle their way through what is seemingly becoming a traditional early-season struggle.

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The table currently reads one win, a draw and one defeat after three games, and after their somewhat fortunate win over Celtic in mid-week, there is much doom and gloom surrounding the Rossoneri currently.

However, Ignazio Abate, Andrea Poli and M'Baye Niang are all expected to bolster that ailing squad this weekend, and although the latter perhaps fails to inspire confidence, it will come as a significant boost to have the width and drive that both Abate and Poli provide.

While it is easy to dismiss Milan's Scudetto hopes this year, it is still far too early in the season to pass such judgments as pointed by Adriano Galliani on Friday. The Rossoneri's vice-president insisted that the result "will not be decisive", but it will unquestionably act as a real boost if Milan can find a way to defeat their league rivals.

Having finished below Napoli last season, experts have tipped Benitez’s side to be the "anti-Juventus" again this season. While victory would not only help Milan's cause in bridging the early gap between themselves and the front-runners, it could also potentially take the wind out of their opponent's sails.

The game, therefore, is double-edged, and despite the on-going absence of key individuals, there is arguably enough at Allegri's disposal to grind out a positive result.

An encouraging aspect of the Celtic win was Mario Balotelli's reaction to the lack of inspiration running through the team. The 23-year-old didn't disappear after being left frustrated, but instead he responded and tried to take control of the game.

More of the same will be required on Sunday night, with the hope that the Valter Birsa experiment will not be revisited. Although short on options, Allegri must make the most of the qualities that the players possess, and if that means tinkering with the tactical set-up, then so be it.

Games so early in the season should not be deemed decisive, even if such statements are perhaps used to relieve some pressure. However, it is the performance that is important with three points giving Milan the confidence to move past their early slump.

Can Milan stop Napoli? Are Rafa Benitez's men more capable of a title bid?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty


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