Manchester City travel to Italy to face Serie A leaders Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Here, we look at the challenge facing Pep Guardiola’s Premier League pace-setters in the Group F clash at the San Paolo Stadium.
Last time outCity edged a 2-1 victory when the sides played out an entertaining contest at the Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago. City were pegged back by the Italians after an outstanding start in which they struck twice in the early stages through Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. Jesus also went close to a second and Kevin De Bruyne hit the bar in the opening half hour. Napoli then finally began to show why they are rated so highly by Guardiola, creating a number of chances themselves. Dries Mertens missed a penalty but Amadou Diawara did score from the spot and City had to survive a nervy finish.
Superb formCity’s outstanding start to the season has earned them plenty of plaudits and it has been a similar story for Napoli in Italy. The only major blemishes on their campaign to date have been that loss at City and their earlier Champions League slip-up against Shakhtar Donetsk. On the domestic front they have won 10 from 11 in Serie A, scoring 32 goals in the process. Their only dropped points came in a draw against second-placed Inter Milan.
Guardiola remains a huge fanThe City boss talked up Napoli prior to the first meeting, describing them as “one of the three best teams right now in Europe” in terms of their playing style. Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis dismissed that as mind games, calling the Catalan a “wily old fox” but Guardiola reaffirmed his beliefs. After the game he said Napoli were “one of the best teams I have ever faced as a professional”.
Group situationAfter two defeats, Maurizio Sarri’s side have ground to make up in order to reach the knockout stages. They trail group leaders City by six points and Shakhtar by three. Another defeat could leave them in a perilous position in a group in which they were highly fancied along with City. City can afford a setback and a draw would be sufficient to ensure progress, but planning for such scenarios is not in Guardiola’s nature. That could make for another open game in keeping with their last meeting.
Napoli came out on top the last time they hosted City in the competition. That was in the 2011-12 group stages as City played in the Champions League for the first time. After a 1-1 draw in Manchester, Napoli won 2-1 at the intimidating San Paolo. There are also two players chasing history. Marek Hamsik can equal Napoli’s goalscoring record by finding the net and Sergio Aguero will break the City equivalent if he scores.
Source: By PA Sport Staff