Napoli v. Porto: Don't Screw This Up

Napoli face a tough task in the home leg of the Europa League round of 16, as Porto come to Naples with a 1-0 lead.

Today is the day that we find out who moves on to the Europa League quarter finals, and Napoli have quite an uphill battle at hand if they want to stamp their names on that list.

Napoli v. Porto:3/20/14 2105 CET, 1605 EST Stadio San PaoloNaples, Italy
Spoiling For A Fight

Despite the narrowness of a 1-0 lead going in to the final leg, Porto are in a commanding position. With their possession-oriented style and quality in defense, they can just sit back and try to play keep-away with Napoli's midfield, minimizing their opponent's chances to create chances to score.

They enter the second leg coming off an extremely flat performance against Sporting Lisbon in their league. They might use that as motivation, though, as with the league slipping away the Europa League is their last shot at real hardware this season.

Porto will be without two key members of their squad: goalkeeper Helton ruptured his Achilles tendon against Lisbon and will likely be out for most of the next year, and Alex Sandro will serve a one-match suspension after his booking in the first leg. Both players put in top-shelf performances against Napoli in the first leg, so hopefully the partenopei will be able to take full advantage of their absence. The loss of Sandro is particularly bad for Porto as his backup, Abdoulaye Ba, is cup-tied after appearing in the Europa League with Vitoria Guimares earlier in the season.

Go Pull A Rocky

Napoli need to play a lot, a LOT, better than they have the past several weeks. They were thoroughly outclassed by Porto last week, and will need to outplay their guests by a similar, if not greater, margin in order to secure victory without having to go to extra time or the ever-dreaded penalty shootout. Giving up any goals to Porto could be the kiss of death, as a single Porto goal will force Napoli to put three past a stingy defense thanks to the away goals rule.

Christian Maggio has been ruled out for a month after his lung surgery, and Camilo Zuniga has yet to be cleared to return. Giandomenico Mesto was left out of the available roster declared by Rafa Benitez for the match, so cross your fingers and hope no fullbacks go down injured.

Hopefully the comforts of home at the San Paolo will inspire a performance of the level we've seen against Arsenal, Dortmund, and Roma when Napoli's backs were against the wall. Napoli must take advantage of Porto being without Sandro and Helton; Jose Callejon in particular should be a much more active and effective participant in this match as Sandro kept him all but neutralized in the first leg.

Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong

Napoli: Reina; Reveillere, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Inler, Henrique; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain

Porto: Fabiano; Danilo, Maicon, Reyes, Mangala; Defour, Fernando, Josue; Quaresma, Martinez, Lica

First Leg

Watch it

The match will start Thursday at 9:05 PM CET/4:05 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Sky Calcio 2 in Italy and Fox Sports 1 in America. Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter.

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