Manchester City v Napoli - Match Preview
City`s European football campaign resumes on Tuesday with the visit of Napoli to the Etihad in what could be a vibrant and mouthwatering encounter as the leaders of the Premier League and Serie A go head to head in the first of their Champions League 'double header`.
Both teams are unbeaten in domestic competition with Naopli`s sole defeat of the season coming against Shakhtar in the opening fixture of this Champions League. City are unbeaten in all competitions this season and resumes their blistering form at the weekend with a scintillating evisceration of Stoke City. I will leave the eulogising about our performance to the other threads except to say……..we were good weren`t we?
Out opponents have been in fine form domestically and have been leading the way in Serie A with 8 consecutive victories and a goal difference of +21. City lead the way in the Premier League with a goal difference of +25 and the only 'blot on the copy book` being the home draw against Everton (courtesy of Bobby Madley`s yellow card one might argue).
On paper the sides are well matched with very similar stats in terms of possession, pass accuracy, goals per game & shots on goal. Maurizio Sarri`s side currently sit third in the group and will be looking to follow up their defeat of Feyenoord with a good result against City.
Sarri was appointed coach of Napoli after a successful spell at Empoli between 2012-15. As a native son of Naples he would have been very proud to lead the Partenopei to second place in Serie A in his first season in charge (2015/16) and also in reaching the UEFA Europa League round of 32 after they set a competition record by scoring 22 goals in the group stage. They lost to Real Madrid in last season`s Champions League round of 16 but returned to the competition by securing a third place finish in Serie A.
Napoli are unbeaten in their last three games against Premier League clubs (W2 D1), since a 2-0 loss at Arsenal FC in the 2013/14 group stage. That was their third reverse in four trips to England, the 2011 draw at City the only time they avoided defeat in that run. Most recently, Napoli drew 0-0 at Swansea City in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg, winning 3-1 at home. The draw at Swansea gave Napoli the record W0 D2 L3 away to Premier League sides. In contrast, they have won four of their five home matches, drawing the other.
Defeat at Shakhtar on matchday one was Napoli's third in ten European away fixtures since the start of 2015/16 (W6 D1). They picked up seven points away from home in last year's group stage indicating that they will present a stern test for Pep`s men.
The Blues however are unbeaten in their last 11 home matches in the UEFA Champions League (W8 D3), qualifying included, since that Juventus reversal on matchday one in 2015/16. Guardiola's side took seven points at home in last season's group stage, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-0) and FC Barcelona (3-1) before a 1-1 draw with Celtic.
The only past encounters between City & Napoli came in the 2011/12 group stage, City`s debut UEFA Champions League campaign. The first encounter at the Etihad was a 1-1 draw on matchday one when Kolarov cancelled out Cavani`s opener for the Italian side. The reverse fixture in Italy proved crucial though as Cavani struck twice either side of Balotelli`s 33rd minute goal to take all three points. The Italian side finished the group in second place on 11 points, one point and one place higher than City. That tally of 10 points would have been enough to reach the knockout stage of the competition in six of the seven other groups - such are the fine margins of top flight football.
This is the third time City have been drawn in the same UEFA Champions League group as opponents from Italy. In 2014/15 we collected four points from AS Roma (1-1 home, 2-0 away) but in the most recent Anglo-Italian contest, against Juventus in 2015/16, we lost 2-1 at home and 1-0 away. That defeat by Juve was City's first at home to Italian visitors and means we have won none of our last four home games against Serie A sides (D3 L1) in recent years.
The win at Roma is City's only success in our last eight meetings with Italian clubs, home and away (D4 L3). Prior to that win we have to take a trip back in time to when we achieved victories in both the first two matches against Italian opposition with Brian Kidd scoring in a 1-0 win over Juventus in September 1976 and getting on the scoresheet again in December 1978 in a famous 3-0 home victory over AC Milan winning the tie 5-2 on aggregate. The other goalscorer that day being Tommy Booth and Asa Hartford.
Seems to me like it could be time to write some fresh lines in the history books.
Come on City!!!
Opponent to watch
Dries Martin - the 30 year old Belgian international has been in fine form this season netting 7 times and providing 2 assists.
Match Officials (Spain)
Referee - Antonio Mates Lahoz
Assistants - Pau Cebrian Devis; Roberto del Palomar
Fourth Official - Teodoro Sobrino
Additional Assistant Referees - Carlos Del Cerro; Alejandro Hernandez
Mr Lahoz was in charge of City`s exciting 5-3 victory over Monaco at the Etihad in last season`s Champions League round of 16. He had previously overseen the City victory over Dinamo Kiev in the previous season`s competition.
He issued no cards that day but gave out 4 cautions in the game against Monaco.
City (Premier League 2017/18)
Goals per game - 3.1
Avg Possesion - 64.9%
Pass Accuracy - 89%
Shots per game - 19.4
Discipline - 14Y, 2R
Napoli (Serie A 2017/18)
Goals per game - 3.3
Avg Possesion - 60.2%
Pass Accuracy - 89.5%
Shots per game - 19.4
Discipline - 10Y, 1R
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com
City will be assessing the fitness of Sergio Aguero who has been back in full training and on the bench against Stoke at the weekend. Vincent Kompany……..who knows?
Napoli will be at full strength for the encounter. Former Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina will likely be in goal for the Italians who also boast ex-Sunderland player Emanuele Giaccherini among their ranks.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D
Silva B, G Jesus, Sané
Bravo, Mangala, Danilo, Toure, Gundogan, Sterling, Aguero