Manchester City host Napoli in a Champions League clash that pits the Premier League leaders against the Serie A table-toppers.
Here, we look at some talking points ahead of Tuesday’s Group F encounter.
Can City continue their flying start?2>
Pep Guardiola’s side have been in outstanding form in the early part of the season. Saturday’s 7-2 thrashing of Stoke took their goal tally to 37 in 11 matches in all competitions. As well as Stoke, Liverpool (5-0), Feyenoord (4-0), Watford (6-0) and Crystal Palace (5-0) have all been demolished. Yet City have not only shown they can score goals when they get into their groove, but that they can nullify and overcome the strongest opponents, as champions Chelsea found out last month. They are certainly going to take some stopping.
What test will Napoli present
The options City have make them incredibly difficult for opposing teams to work out. Shakhtar Donetsk, however, even though they lost at the Etihad Stadium, did find a way to frustrate City in their last Champions League outing. They also had opportunities that could have led to a different outcome had they been taken. Given their own excellent start to the season, Napoli therefore could provide the toughest test yet. The Italians have maximum points from their eight Serie A games and have scored 26 goals, conceding just five, along the way. In Dries Mertens they also have an in-form Belgian forward to rival City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne in stunning form
De Bruyne is clearly an early candidate for player of the season. The 26-year-old has delivered a series of impressive performances this term, capped by a match-winning effort against former club Chelsea and a masterful display in the rout of Stoke. The Belgian is revelling in a deeper role this season, this slight switch of position made possible by City’s greater use of full-backs in attack. His awareness of team-mates and the weight of his passes to find them has been remarkable.
Will Aguero return
Sergio Aguero has made a rapid recovery from the broken rib sustained in a car crash three weeks ago and he was an unused substitute against Stoke. His fitness has improved further since then with manager Guardiola saying his training has been “amazing”. It suggests he could feature. He remains one short of equalling City’s goalscoring record of 177, which has stood since 1939.
Guardiola continues to implore fans to turn up in numbers and create a daunting atmosphere for opponents in this competition. The game should sell itself but at his pre-match press conference the City boss made a point of saying: “I hope Manchester City fans can come again to help us. In this competition we need their support.” City fans have been slow to warm to the Champions League and their dislike of organisers UEFA remains evident in their continual booing of the competition’s anthem.
Source: By PA Sport Staff