The early stages of the Europa League might not be very much fun... actually, let's not sugar coat, they're boring. Most of the teams involved aren't any good. But one of the other teams in Napoli's group beat them last time out, and now that same side is coming to the San Paolo, and the chance at vengeance is at hand.
Young Boys are struggling right now. Their win against Napoli two week ago could have been a springboard to greater success in the league, but instead the continued what's now a three-match losing skid.
The Swiss side are still in a good position in this Europa League group, however, though they face stiff competition for continued success from Napoli and Sparta Prague. Even if Young Boys aren't as good as their rivals, they can make life more difficult for them, as any points won from here on out will make life harder on Napoli and Sparta. And hey, if they spoil things enough they might just get through to the knockout rounds.
Young Boys are relatively healthy, with only the continued long-term absences of Marco Burki, Matias Vitkieviez, and Alexander Gerndt to worry them. None of those played a part in Napoli's loss to the Swiss side last month, though, and it wouldn't be at all unreasonable to expect the same side to be run out again.
Rotation Is The Spice Of Life
Thanks to illness and injuries, Napoli will be down three players for this match, including Marek Hamsik and David Lopez. How Napoli deal with those losses should be quite interesting, but one thing is clear: there's going to be a fair bit of rotation in this match.
Starts for Dries Mertens and Walter Gargano seem virtually guaranteed, and one for Jonathan De Guzman is probable. It also seems likely that Gokhan Inler and (shudder) Miguel Britos get nods in this one. This won't be a full strength Napoli side, but it will be one that Rafa will have faith in to prove its worth against Young Boys.
Napoli's league form is much the stronger, and after the last match between these two sides, they've seen pretty much the best Young Boys can do. They need a win in this match in order to take some of the pressure off that Napoli have piled on themselves in the group, as these two teams and Sparta Prague are all tied at six points apiece.
With Sparta likely to beat Slovan Bratislava, Napoli need a win to avoid staring up at other teams in the group, and prevent the possibility of a situation like what they had last year in the Champions League, when Napoli came up on the short end of a three-way tie.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Napoli: Rafael; Mesto, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, Gargano; Callejon, De Guzman, Mertens; Higuain
Young Boys: Mvogo; Sutter, Vilotic, Von Bergen, Lecjaks; Sanogo, Gajic; Steffen, Kubo, Nuzzolo; Hoarau
At a glance
Young Boys: 5th in Swiss Super League; 5W 5D 5L; League Form: LLLWW
Napoli: 5th in Serie A; 5W 3D 2L; League Form: WDWDW
Napoli played poorly against Young Boys last time out. They lost 2-0. Let's not dwell.
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