Napoli vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Recently, the warriors of Naples have fought many battles and lost the important ones. The 3-0 spanking by Juventus and the 3-1 loss at the Signal Iduna are results that have not gone down well with the Sky Blue army. Matchday six of the UCL is the biggest game of the season for Rafa Benitez and his men.

In the lead up to the game, problems have arose between the gaffer and team captain, Paolo Cannavaro’s agent, with the latter accusing the former of ignoring his client and declaring him unsuitable for his team.

In fairness, the younger brother of former Azzurri skipper, Fabio, has done little to prove he merits a place in the starting eleven. In the away fixture v Roma earlier in the season, he was sent off for one of daftest challenges you’ll ever see. An action which effectively ensured that the sky blues left the capital without a point.

Cannavaro is set to depart the club in the January transfer window since he has found opportunities hard to come by. Miguel Britos and Federico Fernandez are doing a great job alongside Raul Albiol and only injury/suspension can deny them a place in the starting line-up

Visitors, Arsenal are the early pacesetters in the English Premier League. The gunners have lost only two games in domestic action this term and lead the chasing pack by five points. They were six minutes + stoppage time away from extending the advantage to seven, only for Barcelona loanee, Gerard Deulofeu to pop up and score a beauty for Everton in the 84th minute to level matters.

Arsene Wenger is aware of the task at hand and is confident that his wards will qualify. It will be an astonishment of epic proportions if Napoli cruise past Arsenal with the much improved Per-Kos partnership present at the San Paolo.

Benitez knows what is required to qualify for the next round. Although they have made it difficult for themselves, they have one last chance to put things right in front of their fans and on their turf. Irrespective of the opposition, the Paolo is a scary place to visit and the Partenopei fans will make life unbearable for Arsenal from the stands.

The burden rests firmly on the shoulders of Gonzalo ‘Pipita Higuain- the Argentine attacker is 26 today and will want to get one over a team he almost joined in the summer before De Laurentiis stepped in. It would certainly be one of the best birthday presents ever if he scores the goals required to enable Napoli qualify for the Round of 16. Something previous South Americans like El Diego and Cavani would have happily done.

Pipita’s job is tougher because Marek Hamsik is injured. The Slovakian playmaker will not take part in the Club’s most important game yet and that is a big blow. Another ex-Real Madrid player, Jose Callejon has been in good form this season. His goals and work rate deserve commendation. Napoli have a good chance to qualify if Jose and Pipita raise their game.

For Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, it has been a jolly good ride so far. The first tough game in the December run-in ended in a draw on Sunday and the same result will ensure that they don’t only qualify, but top the group as well. Giving the excellent form they currently are, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The mission is simple: don’t concede at all. Even if you do, let it not be more than three and if you manage to let in three, score at least one. Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil have been scoring the goals of late and will look to continue in that fashion.

Wojciech Szczesny now seems assured in goal and that has made Wenger’s decision to bring in Viviano, laughable. The Pole has to remain solid and impenetrable to stop the Callejon-Pandev-Insigne-PIPITA quartet.

 

PREDICTED LINE-UPS

NAPOLI

Pepe Reina, Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere, Dzemaili, Inler, Pandev, Insigne, Callejon, HIGUAIN.

Pretty much the expected team selection from Rafa. Hamsik aside, everyone walks straight into the starting 11 except that Pandev is often the strike option if/when Pipita and co fail to shine. The Macedonian captain has a lot to offer when he is called upon.

Raul Albiol and whoever partners him in defence must be watchful of the exceptional skills set of Ozil-Ramsey-Giroud-and Santiago Cazorla. Well, Gokhan Inler must play his part too.

 

ARSENAL

Szczesny, Jenkinson, Kos, Per, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Roiscky, Walcott, Giroud/Bendtner.

There’s this strange feeling that Wenger might like some width tomorrow, hence the inclusion of Walcott in the first eleven. Tomas Roiscky is a genius when fit and ready and we all know the numbers Aaron has posted this season. Any position you ask him to play, he does unbelievable things.

In fact, due to his leading role this season, some have boldly opined that he is better than the peerless ARTURO VIDAL. Ozil has been very impressive for the Gunners with timely goals and assists since he came from Spain. The Germany playmaker extraordinaire is probably the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League.

Arsene might want to give Nicklas a chance to prove himself yet again after that rare goal v Hull last week. Wilshere will be required to rest his ankle in the aftermath of what happened on Sunday and Flamini should miss out through injury.

 

Conclusion

The San Paolo will be rocking on Wednesday night and everyone is anticipating a spectacular match between two great clubs slugging it out for a place in the last 16 of the UCL. Victory for Napoli might not be enough which is bizarre because it would take them to 12 points.

If Dortmund win at the Velodrome and Arsenal avoid being thrashed 3-0, then both Klopp and Wenger will be delighted to sail through what was dubbed the ‘GROUP OF DEATH’ when the draws came through. If Napoli achieve the impossible, De Laurentiis might just open his chequebook for reinforcements to be brought in to bolster the ever improving squad.

It is first in England v third in Italy. If the gunners were in Serie A, they would have been third behind Roma and Juventus points wise and if Napoli had been a premier league club this campaign, they would have been 2nd behind Arsenal. Tight game in prospect as both teams are doing quite well domestically.

Stalwarts like Higuain and Ozil have one or two points to prove on Wednesday night. How weird it will be for both players who as early as May, were playing together for one club. We await showtime.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

Follow Ohis on Twitter @ohiskaka1990

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