Sitting some 10 points adrift of league leaders Inter Milan - and the last time Serie A's reigning champions were so far behind at this stage was back in 1994 - Napoli's title defence has so far lacked the flair and conviction of last season.
It was only a matter of time before club president Aurelio Di Laurentiis decided to act, and the unloved Rudi Garcia effectively wrote his own goodbye note by overseeing a 1-0 home defeat to lowly Empoli just before the international break.
With several other candidates either overlooked or unavailable, De Laurentiis turned to one of his trusted former coaches, Walter Mazzarri, perhaps recalling that only three men have led Napoli to more league wins than the ex-Watford boss throughout their long Serie A history.
Having started his first reign in 2009, Mazzarri spent just under four years in charge of the Partenopei, guiding them to the last 16 of the Champions League and then winning the Coppa Italia. However, his career took a downward trajectory thereafter, and the 62-year-old's most recent appointment was at Cagliari, where he was sacked midway through last year.
Mazzarri has signed an initial seven-month contract at Stadio Maradona, and his men now have plenty of catching up to do, as they sit fourth in Serie A and are also at risk of missing out on a place in the Champions League's knockout phase.
It may even benefit the Scudetto-holders to play their first game under new management away from the pressure cooker of Naples, where they have picked up only seven points so far this season - just half of their tally on the road.
Napoli have also won each of their last three league matches against Atalanta ahead of this week's meeting in Lombardy, when they will attempt to register four straight top-flight wins over La Dea for the very first time.
After staying on course to progress in Europe by beating Sturm Graz a few days earlier, Atalanta's final fixture before international football intervened saw them visit Serie A strugglers Udinese.
Gian Piero Gasperini's side had seen off their Europa League opponents shortly after losing to Inter in the league, but only Ederson's late leveller prevented them going home empty-handed from Udine, where they produced just two shots on target.
Far from the rotating cast of coaches found in Naples, 'Gasp' has provided continuity in Bergamo for some seven years now, and his stated aim this season is to lead a rejuvenated squad back into the Champions League.
However, conceding twice to Inter brought an end to La Dea's five-game unbeaten run at the Gewiss Stadium, during which they had not shipped a single goal, and as a result of taking one point from a possible six to start November, they slipped to fifth in the standings.
Atalanta have still conceded the fewest goals in home fixtures this term, so they may fancy their chances of frustrating Napoli this weekend - and perhaps even beating their Campanian counterparts for the first time since 2021.
As he faces a baptism of fire - Real Madrid and Inter are up next on Napoli's packed schedule - Walter Mazzarri will have been glad to welcome first-team regulars Victor Osimhen, Piotr Zielinski and Alex Meret back to full training this week.
Last season's Capocannoniere has been out of commission since suffering a hamstring injury on Nigeria duty last month, Zielinski withdrew from the Poland squad with tonsillitis; meanwhile, Meret has been struggling with a calf problem.
Giacomo Raspadori deputises for Osimhen in the hosts' front three, with support from winger Matteo Politano, who has been directly involved in more Serie A goals than any other Italian player this season: five of his own and three assists.
Although he recently failed to deliver in Euro 2024 qualifying, Gianluca Scamacca has scored three times in his last two starts for Atalanta and is favourite to lead La Dea's front line this weekend.
Fellow forward Charles De Ketelaere hopes to be passed fit in time to face Napoli, but teenage defender Giorgio Scalvini - who was forced to pull out of Luciano Spalletti's Italy squad with a recurring back problem - is at risk of joining Matteo Ruggeri and Jose Luis Palomino on the sidelines.
Due to accumulated bookings, midfield mainstay Marten de Roon must serve a suspension; long-term absentee El Bilal Toure remains unavailable, with the Malian striker's comeback pencilled in for the end of 2023.
Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Musso; Toloi, Djimsiti, Kolasinac; Hateboer, Ederson, Koopmeiners, Zappacosta; Pasalic, Lookman; Scamacca
Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Natan, Olivera; Anguissa, Lobotka, Elmas; Politano, Raspadori, Kvaratskhelia
We say: Atalanta BC 1-1 Napoli
After a patchy start to the season and some unsettling off-pitch turmoil, a fresh face in the dugout could yield immediate results for Napoli. Renowned for his team of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik, returning coach Mazzarri is still well regarded in Naples and could help the Partenopei earn a point against tough-to-beat Atalanta.
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