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two days before Barça, Naples changes coach (again)

Appointed to replace Rudi Garcia, Walter Mazzarri was in turn sacked by the Italian champions. Francesco Calzona will be on the bench on Wednesday, against FC Barcelona.

And three! As if hosting FC Barcelona in the Champions League was not already a sufficiently complicated task, Naples, the Italian champion in complete disarray, changed coach on Monday, two days before the round of 16 first leg against the Catalan giant. The Napoli players will therefore discover a third coach since the start of the 2023-24 season.

After the Frenchman Rudi Garcia, dismissed in mid-November four months after his arrival and replaced by Walter Mazzarri, it is the turn of Francesco Calzona to try to relaunch a club which, left behind in championship (9th, ranking here) and eliminated from the Italian Cup, already only has the Champions League to save its season. “I thank Walter Mazzarri, friend of the De Laurentiis family and Napoli, for supporting the team in a complicated moment”wrote the president and owner of the club Aurelio De Laurentiis on his X account (ex-Twitter). “He will remain in the hearts of Neapolitans and our family. Welcome back among us to Francesco Calzona, who has already worked with us »he added, thus confirming the arrival of the new coach, announced by the Italian press.

15 points in twelve matches

Like Mazzarri, Calzona, 55, knows the Neapolitan club well having been Maurizio Sarri’s assistant for three seasons, between 2015 and 2018, then having spent the 2020-21 season alongside tees of Luciano Spalletti, the coach of the 2023 coronation who, exhausted, immediately left the club, before becoming Italy coach. Calzona therefore knows the pressure inherent to the role, with hot and very demanding fans, and a president-owner who is omnipresent to the point of getting involved in team composition.

The film producer decided to stop the Mazzarri experiment after his team’s home draw (1-1) against Genoa on Saturday. The Italian technician’s record is bad, even worse than that of Rudi Garcia: under his leadership, Napoli only earned fifteen points in twelve league matches (1.25 points per match), compared to 21 points in as many matches (1.75 per match) for the French coach.

27 points behind Inter

While Naples was 4th in mid-November when he took office, the azzurro club is now 9th in Serie A, with 27 points less than the leader, Inter Milan! It is nine points behind Atalanta which occupies 4th place, the last qualifier for the next C1, the minimum objective assigned to a team which had overcome last season to offer itself his first national coronation in 33 years and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The Neapolitan squad, however, remained largely unchanged despite the summer desires of European big names for the Nigerian Victor Osimhen, the Georgian Khvicha Kvaratskhelia or the Pole Piotr Zielinski. But Osimhen, top scorer for the 2022-23 season (26), has only played 13 of his team’s 24 league matches with an output reduced to seven goals. L’«masked attacker» Although he extended his contract at the end of December, it is already certain that he will leave Naples at the end of the season, with a possible destination of Paris-SG or the Premier League.

Calzona will only have one training session on Tuesday to discover his players and prepare for a complicated match against the reigning Spanish champion, even if Barça, 3rd in La Liga , is not at best. In its Diego-Armando-Maradona stadium, Naples is very fragile and has conceded five defeats in the league, seven in all competitions. “We also had to take into account our fans and give them something more”said De Laurentiis to explain his incredible poker move.

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