clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Don't worry, everyone, the past reveals that Napoli can beat Athletic Bilbao

Pipita and Ziggy, beating Bilbao
Pipita and Ziggy, beating Bilbao
Denis Doyle

On Tuesday, Napoli face Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier. The partenopei got saddled with the toughest opponents they could possibly have landed, and to make it worse, no one can fall back on the historical argument. You know, the "Napoli have beaten Bilbao in 11 of the 13 times the two sides have met."

Such arguments really hold no relevance when it comes to the current teams, but both media and fans love, love, love to make them anyway. Yet with these two teams having never played against one another in a competitive fixture, it's difficult to predict the future based on the past.

But that doesn't mean Napoli are going into this tie without any experience with the Spanish side. See, ever since Rafa Benítez came along, plenty of Spaniards -- or players that have played in Spain --  have found their home at Napoli. José Callejón, Gonzalo Higuaín and Raúl Albiol all came over from Real Madrid last summer. Michu joined on loan this summer, although he hasn't played in Spain since the 2011-2012 season.

The lovely Il Mattino seized on the fact that there's so much La Liga experience in the Napoli side, and ran a couple graphics outlining just how likely it is that the Italian team would win. See, Higuaín has scored eight times against Bilbao, Ziggy once, and neither have ever lost against them. Rafa, meanwhile, has won four and lost four, as has Albiol, so they don't provide quite as heartening of a statistic, although at least the manager has outscored the Basques, 16-10.

Never mind that this is a different side than the ones faced by the Real Madrid players. It's not important that Rafa hasn't managed in Spain for over a decade. We now know that Napoli players can score against Bilbao, and the Napoli manager can win against them.

Although if someone wants to do a study showing just how often the players have scored against this particular defense and 'keeper, it seems that might be slightly more revealing.