Ahead of their match against Barcelona, Club Napoli replaced their coach, Walter Mazzarri.

Sports.ndtv reported that struggling Napoli fired Walter Mazzarri on Monday and hired Slovakia coach Francesco Calzona two days before meeting Barcelona in the Champions League. Mazzarri, 62, became the second manager fired this season by the struggling Italian champions. After Rudi Garcia was fired in November, Mazzarri took over, but Napoli dropped to ninth in Serie A before Wednesday’s last-16 first leg with Barcelona at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. “I thank Walter Mazzarri, a friend of the De Laurentiis family and Napoli, for helping the team in a difficult period,” stated Aurelio De Laurentiis on X, previously Twitter.

Calzona will take over on Wednesday night, according to De Laurentiis, for the rest of the season. “It’s always painful to sack a friend,” De Laurentiis told Sky Sport in a brief interview. However, in Naples, you must give Napoli supporters something more. With Francesco Calzona, we’ll try.”

After leading Slovakia to Euro 2024, Calzona returns to Napoli, where he was an assistant under Maurizio Sarri and Luciano Spalletti’s trophy-less first season. After Mazzarri’s disastrous second term in command of southern Italy’s largest club, the 55-year-old will apparently maintain his Slovakia post and try to lift Napoli back up the league.

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Napoli returned to the top of Italian football under Mazzarri from 2009 to 2013. He won Napoli’s first title in almost two decades by defeating unbeaten league winners Juventus in the 2012 Italian Cup final. Mazzarri left in May 2013 after finishing second in Italy’s top division with a spectacular offence featuring Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik, and Edinson Cavani.

This time, he failed to gain anything from a squad that won a record third Scudetto previous season. Naples has been in upheaval since title-winning coach Spalletti resigned in the offseason.

Napoli trail league leaders Inter Milan by 27 points after winning only four of 12 league matches under Mazzarri, collecting 15 points. That is even less than Garcia’s 21 from 12 league matches, which put Napoli fourth when he was fired. Even if Italy finishes fifth, Napoli’s prospects of returning to the restructured Champions League next season remain minimal.

Nine of Mazzarri’s matches in all competitions have ended without a goal, and Napoli sit nine points behind fourth-placed Atalanta and fifth-placed Bologna. Calzona will face relegation-threatened Cagliari and Sassuolo on his Serie A debut after Barcelona.

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