Benitez counts on Cup win to save Napoli`s season
Rome: Napoli coach Rafael Benitez is hoping the club`s second Italian Cup final triumph in three years will help make up for the disappointment of failing to challenge for league and Champions League honours this season.
Napoli, sitting third in Serie A, head to Rome`s Olympic Stadium as slight favourites against Fiorentina.
But after a painful exit from the Champions League group stages and having failed to launch a scudetto challenge to league leaders Juventus, Benitez has warned that failure to overcome La Viola could leave their season in tatters.
"We want to lift the Cup because everyone`s evaluation of our season will in large part depend on the result at the Olympic Stadium," Benitez said earlier this week.
Napoli last triumphed in the final two years ago when Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik scored in a 2-0 win against Juventus.
But on Saturday Benitez could be forced to reshuffle his front line depending on whether Gonzalo Higuain -- who has scored 17 league goals this season -- is fully fit to start.
Higuain suffered a calf injury in last week`s scoreless draw away to Inter and although named in Benitez`s matchday squad on Thursday press reports suggest he may not be fit enough for 90 minutes.
On paper, it would suit Fiorentina although forward Gonzalo Rodriguez said his team won`t be focusing on Higuain`s condition.
"We know how important he is to Napoli, but we`re focusing on ourselves," said Rodriguez, who is one of several players giving coach Vincenzo Montella a selection dilemma.
Fiorentina have played some of the most attractive football in Italy this season and, sitting fourth in Serie A with three games remaining, have virtually secured their place in next season`s Europa League.
But with doubts over goalkeeper Neto (finger), Rodriguez (tonsilitis), Mario Gomez (knee) and Borja Valero (knee), Montella could be forced into some major reshuffling.
The only good news Fiorentina received this week was team doctors giving striker Giuseppe Rossi, who has been sidelined with a fresh knee injury since January, the medical all-clear to play.
Club doctor Paolo Manetti said Wednesday: "From a clinical and medical point of view, Giuseppe (Rossi) is fit for selection. In training he`s been put through his paces and has basically recovered."
But with Alessandro Matri, Josip Ilicic and Joaquin all fit to play, Rossi is expected to make a substitute`s appearance in Rome, where an estimated army of 28,000 Fiorentina fans will travel hoping to see the club`s eighth Cup win, and first since 2001.
Even without Higuain in their starting line-up, Napoli will be confident that the likes of Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens, Goran Pandev and Marek Hamsik can help spearhead an attack that has produced 64 league goals this season.
But Rodriguez added: Napoli are strong and they`re the favourites, but we`re going to Roma to give our everything and try to win this for our fans.
"The fans have confidence in us and our game. We don`t want to let them down."