Connect in the back of the net

When the two teams walk out for the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in May, it will be seven years since an Italian side claimed Europe’s ultimate club prize.

Masterminded by Jose Mourinho, Inter Milan were victorious in 2010 against a Bayern Munich side managed by Louis Van Gaal, with Diego Milito grabbing both goals.

Since then – and with wins for Chelsea and Bayern Munich being the sole exceptions – the competition has undoubtedly been dominated by Spain, with Real Madrid and Barcelona claiming two titles each.

While that pair seem stronger than ever, and with the English contingent of Manchester City, Leicester City and Arsenal keen to make a mark on this year’s competition, what about the chances of the two Serie A sides which have made it into the last 16?

Both Napoli and Juventus have impressed so far, but do they have what it takes to go all the way?

 

High-flying Juve

Both domestically and in Europe, Juventus are undoubtedly flying this year.

Seven points clear at the top of Serie A with 14 wins out of 17, the Old Lady of Italian Football also topped Group H in the Champions League with four wins and two draws.

Perhaps most impressively, they only conceded two goals in the process with the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon continuing to dominate the penalty box as well as ever at the age of 38.

Speaking of Buffon, much has already been made of their last 16 tie being some kind of battle of the goalkeepers.

Their opponents are FC Porto, with the first leg being an away tie at the Estadio do Dragao on February 22nd.

Between the sticks for the Portuguese side is of course Iker Casillas, a keeper who is no stranger to success as a Real Madrid legend.

The big question for Juve is simple – can they mount a meaningful challenge in Europe?

According to bookmakers Betway, Juventus are currently 11/8 to win the first leg tie against Porto and 12/1 to lift the trophy outright in Cardiff in a few months’ time.

In contrast, the odds of the other Italian participant in the last 16 of this year’s Champions League winning the title are a touch longer.

 

More than first meets the eye

Betway has put Napoli’s chances of success at 66/1, but is there more to the side than first meets the eye?

Currently third in Serie A on goal difference, Napoli are continuing to make a fantastic impact on the league.

One of their most eye-catching recent successes was a 5-3 win against Joe Hart’s Torino, with the Belgian Dries Mertens taking the plaudits with a stunning four-goal haul including a phenomenal chip.

In terms of their European adventure, they finished top of Group B with 11 points from three wins and two draws. But who’s up next? Only Real Madrid.

With the first leg at the Bernabeu on Feb 15th, it is likely to be a major challenge for the Italian side.

However, they can call upon the experience of former Real players including Raul Albiol when they try to do the unthinkable and beat Cristiano Ronaldo and his side on their own turf.

Perhaps slightly ominously, Real have previous experience of beating Italian opposition at this stage after they knocked Roma out in the last 16 last year.

 

Transforming their domestic form to the continental stage

Can Napoli show they are serious contenders by winning the tie?

While it is clear both Juventus and Napoli boast fantastic squads, it will be interesting to see if they can transform their domestic dominance into European glory.

 

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