S.S.C Napoli v Chelsea FC
When you think of Italian football, teams like AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus spring to mind. However, over the past few seasons, Napoli have joined the names of the “bigguns.”
And tonight sees West Londoners Chelsea take the Naples side in the last-16 first-leg of the Champions League.
Napoli finished second in their Group A table, just two points behind German giants Bayern Munich. During the group stage, they fought off tough competition from Premier League high-flyers Manchester City and Spain’s Villarreal.
Walter Mazzarri’s men are unbeaten at home in the Champions League this campaign having only dropped two points to Munich and losing one game overall; a close 3-2 loss in Germany.
As well as playing Man.City, the Italians also encountered Liverpool in last year’s Europa League competition. After a 0-0 draw at the Stadio San Paulo, Steven Gerrard’s hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Anfield helped Liverpool progress through the group stages.
A reason for Napoli’s recent success is mainly down to their front three. Edinson Cavani, a target of Chelsea’s, has scored four Champions League goals in six appearances. He’s brilliant in the air and his shooting ability is exceptional. Ezequiel Lavezzi partners Cavani upfront and he has found the net three times, averaging a goal every two games. Finally just behind the front two is Marek Hamsik. The Slovakian, who has been linked with Manchester United and Arsenal, has two goals and one assist to his name this season and is usually the player who pulls the strings in this Napoli side. Other key players include Gokhan Inler and Goran Pandev.
Serie A 2011/12
Napoli are currently sixth in the Serie A table having only lost two home games in 12 and losing five overall in 24 league matches. They go into tonight’s match on the back of a 3-0 away thrashing over Fiorentina.
There are no big injury concerns for manager Mazzarri, however, he will watch the match from the stands following a touchline ban.
For Chelsea, John Terry is out of tonight’s game, so there’s a chance Gary Cahill could make his Champions League debut.
Ashley Cole looks to have recovered from his ankle injury whilst Fernando Torres may make way for Didier Drogba in attack.
Expected Chelsea line-up: 4-3-3
Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Meireles, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Drogba, Sturridge.
Subs: Hilario, Bosingwa, Bertrand, Essien, Malouda, Kalou, Torres.
Napoli 2-1 Chelsea
First goalscorer: Edinson Cavani