Napoli's failure to reach the Champions League this season was disappointing, and no one would blame partenopei fans for not paying much attention to the competition since then. Napoli have had the all-important Europa League to follow, after all!
You didn't buy that either, huh? Yeah, that's OK.
Still, this last matchday in the group stage is important for Napoli. With Napoli having secured qualification to the first Europa League knockout round (and gunning for first place in the group on Thursday), this last matchday could have a relatively important impact on how the rest of Napoli's Europa campaign plays out.
Since the third place teams from each group drop down in to the Europa League, how these matches play out help determine some of Napoli's potential opponents moving forward. Of the eight "drop downs", four will be seeded with the Europa group winners based on how many points they won in their Champions League groups, and the other four are with the second-place Europa teams.
That's why it's so important for Napoli to get first place in the group; with eight high-end teams dropping down in to the competition, avoiding the theoretical best of them in this first knockout round is key to Napoli's chances of finding success in this tournament.
Four teams have already been confirmed as headed to the Europa League after Tuesday's Champions League results: Olympiakos, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, and Liverpool. Of those, only Olympiakos is absolutely going to be seeded, as the points difference between the other three and some of the currently third placed sides in the four Champions League groups playing today is too small to guarantee places.
In Group E, one of Roma, Manchester City, and CSKA Moscow will make the drop. All three sides are on five points, with Roma and Manchester City playing head to head in Italy while CSKA tries to find a result against group winner Bayern Munich. Thanks to tiebreakers, Roma stand the best chance to advance, and CSKA's tiebreaker hold over Manchester City means that they'd take third if Roma and Bayern both win today.
In Group F, Ajax sits third on just two points behind giants Barcelona and PSG, but face Cypran side APOEL in Amsterdam to decide who actually finishes third. If APOEL can steal a win, they'd take third place away from Ajax. Group G also has third place up in the air; German side Schalke sits third on five points, and are heading to Slovenia to face Maribor, who are on three. If Maribor win, they take third place. If they draw, Schalke finishes third. If Schalke win, they'd finish the group on eight points, meaning that is Sporting Portugal can't beat Chelsea in London, the Portuguese side would finish third on seven points. If Chelsea and Sporting draw, Sporting head to the Champions League knockouts on tiebreakers over Schalke, and the Germans step down to the Europa league.
Remember Athletic Bilbao? Yes, we still hate them. They sit third in Group H with no chance of snatching third from Shaktar Donetsk, but if they don't win their home match against Belarusian side BATE Borisov, they won't actually finish third. The match is in Bilbao, but man would it be poetic to see them fail now. Not to mention the fact that BATE is an easier opponent should Napoli have to face them.
Who do you want to see make the drop to the Europa League for these matches? Who do you think Napoli needs to avoid?