Napoli travel to France to take on Marseille on Tuesday evening, and both sides have everything to lose. Sure, it's Marseille who've yet to record a point in Champions League play, but Napoli know that they've got to beat the weakest team in the group if they want to put themselves into second. And with Borussia Dortmund set to take on Arsenal, there's a very good chance that a win could put Napoli right back into that spot.
Once again, I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert on the opposition. Sure, I've read about Olympique de Marseille, but my chances to watch Ligue 1 are few and far between. The cold hard numbers show Marseille are fifth in France, having won exactly half their ten matches while scoring 13 goals. Playing at the Stade Vélodrome doesn't give them much advantage, winning two and losing two on their home ground. Marseille fell 1-0 at Nice, with whom they're even on points, at the weekend, and have lost their last three matches, including that 3-0 loss to Dortmund.
Marseille have just one goal in Champions League play, a penalty conversion by Jordan Ayew scored in injury time during the Arsenal match. Andre-Pierre Gignac and Dimitri Payet have scored the most goals in the domestic campaign, both with three, and Payet has recovered from injury in time to be available to face Napoli. Center back Lucas Mendes is out with ankle injury and attacker Saber Khalifa misses with a calf problem.
Napoli, of course, are quite starting to feel quite familiar with injuries. Camilo Zúñiga is out with whatever caused him to need surgery (Christian Maggio disease?) but fortunately, Pablo Armero should be recovered from jetlag so we won't need to see Giandomenico Mesto pretending he can play leftback. Who knows, though, maybe he'll be at center back, what with Paolo Cannavaro acting as though he's on the side of whatever team Napoli are facing and Federico Fernández not quite knowing how the game of football works and Miguel Britos being sidelined because he has a shoulder.
Gonzalo Higuaín seems to have recovered from his knock, seeing as he played against Roma, but to be honest I was too busy hiding in my pillow fort to be able to judge just how well he functioned. What's obvious is that something's up with Marek Hamšík. Maybe the attention's gone to his head, maybe a Camorra boss had a little word with him, maybe it's just that they discontinued his favorite brand of extra-strength styling gel. Whatever has happened, it's clear Marek's no longer bossing the game like he did through the first few rounds. His passes are misplaced and his shots wide of the target. If the partenopei want to get back on track, both in the league and in Europe, Hamšík must be repaired immediately.
Obvious, I know. It's also fairly obvious that Rafa Benítez will be going all out for this match. With Torino, who were unable to contain a ten-man Inter on Sunday, up next, there's no reason to conserve energy for the weekend. The backline might be shaky and patched-together, but the rest of the squad should be as strong as possible. Sorry, Goran Pandev, that means you're on the bench.
With a win pretty much essential for both sides, it's hard not to think that we'll see plenty of action, as both sides get forward to chase all three points. But now that I've said that, watch this be a goalless draw...ah, who am I kidding, there's no way that backline doesn't let in a goal.