Napoli vs Arsenal
UEFA Champions League
Stadio San Paolo
Kick off: December 11, 2013 7:45 PM GMT
It is an odd predicament for Arsene Wenger to be in knowing that a draw is enough to top Group F and only a heavy three goal defeat coupled with a Borussia Dortmund victory will prevent Arsenal from progression. Some saw this as an opportunity for Wenger to employ some rotation ahead of the big clash against Manchester City, but Wenger played down that possibility saying that progression is more important than a couple of games in the marathon that is the Premier League.
In terms of team news, Bacary Sagna remains sidelined as he still recovers from a hamstring problem meaning Carl Jenkinson will retain his position in the starting line-up. The youngster put in a good performance against Everton and will hope to continue his good form in front of Napoli’s intimidating fans. German Lukas Podolski also misses the trip despite returning to full training, obviously due to being very short on match fitness.
Although Arsenal have been in a rich vein of form, Benetiz’s Napoli have looked wobbly in their recent matches with the Italian side only registering a solitary win in their past five matches. Of particular note is their shortcomings in defence conceding twelve goals in those last five matches, with eight being conceded in the last three. Arsenal will no doubt look to pounce with Koscielny saying Arsenal will play to win in Italy.
As well as defence, in attack Napoli find themselves short with the absence of influential figure Marek Hamsik. Granted his replacement Goran Pandev did score a brace at the weekend, but you still feel Hamsik’s absence will be felt in a team that needs to win by a three goal margin to progress. One player that won’t miss this fixture though is Argentine Gonzalo Higuain. The striker missed the match in the reverse fixture and will be keen to show Arsenal what they missed out on. I am hopeful however that Bosscielny will be all over the Argentine, much like he dominated him in pre-season.
Yes, Arsenal must go into this match with no complacency, but I do find myself relaxed ahead of the match. Arsene has hinted that he will play a full strength side and I feel confident that the chances of Napoli scoring at least three against what has been an outstanding Arsenal defence is slim-to-none. As usual with these kinds of away matches, the first 15-20 minutes of match will be testing time with Napoli’s imposing crowd likely to be in full voice, but if Arsenal can silence them early with a goal it should be smooth sailing. However if the reverse happens it could be a nervy match. COYG!!
Arsenal: Sagna (hamstring), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Sanogo (back), Diaby (knee)
Napoli: Hamsik (foot), Zuniga (knee), Mesto (knee)
|ARSENAL – DWWWW||NAPOLI – DWLLL|
|Arsenal 1 – Everton 1||EPL||Napoli 3 – Udinese 3||ITA1|
|Arsenal 2 – Hull 0||EPL||Lazio 2 – Napoli 4||ITA1|
|Cardiff City 0 – Arsenal 3||EPL||Borussia Dortmund 3 – Napoli 1||UCL|
|Arsenal 2 – Olympique de Marseille 0||UCL||Napoli 0 – Parma 1||ITA1|
|Arsenal 2 – Southampton 0||EPL||Juventus 3 – Napoli 0||ITA1|
Jenkinson Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
Arteta (c) Ramsey
Napoli 1 Arsenal 1