It's time to head back to Europe, with Napoli flyin' on a jet plane to travel nearly 1,400 kilometers to Poland in order to face Legia Warsaw. That's an awfully long trip -- it sure would be nice to see them make the return journey with three shiny points to make it worthwhile, no?
An uncertain aim
Napoli are in something of an awkward place at the moment. They just won a huge match against Juventus and a second straight win would be a big boost to their confidence and momentum, especially heading into a weekend tilt with Milan at the San Siro. But that same match, coupled by Napoli having a lot of tired legs in the side and facing arguably the smallest team of the group away from home, we could see a lot of rotation and Napoli willing to take a draw early in the group stage as a result.
That especially looks likely with Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne, and Elseid Hysaj not even making the trip to Poland with the squad, as Hamsik rests a tender ankle and battered body -- seriously, has anyone in Europe taken more heavy tackles over the last two weeks than Marekiaro? -- and Insigne gets his badly bruised knee some treatment. Hysaj simply needs a rest -- he's played every Napoli match so far this season, and even at his young age playing that many matches as an all-action fullback like Hysaj is takes a toll.
That means we should see starts for David Lopez, Dries Mertens, and perhaps even Manolo Gabbiadini, as well as likely appearances for Christian Maggio and Vlad Chiriches. All are players who need more minutes, and what better time to give them those minutes than a match that Napoli can probably afford to not win and need to rest their starters anyways?
Teetering on the edge
As we were told in the Legia Warsaw Q&A we did with FootBar, Legia manager Henning Bern is teetering on the edge of being sacked. Berg himself confirmed that risk in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, so the Polish club will be looking to spur on any kind of positive result to save their manager. Unless of course the players don't want him around anymore, in which case all bets are off.
Still, it's been a rough few weeks for Legia. They started the season in free-scoring form, but have struggled since mid-August and were shut out by Danish side FC Midtjylland in their Europa League group opener. They've won just two matches since August 2nd, and one of those was in their domestic cup competition. Things are not looking up in Warsaw, and if Napoli can get rolling early, it might be another bad night for Legia.
On the injury front, star attacker and one-time Napoli transfer target Ondrej Duda is a slight doubt after missing Legia's last four matches with injury, but it's believed he'll be at least in contention to start. Who knows what kind of fitness or form he'll be in, though. Their captain, midfielder Ivica Vrdoljak, is out until January with a knee injury, and two other members of their attacking rotation are out injured, as well as Dominik Furkan, who's suspended for this match. That could hurt Legia's chances of generating a strong enough attack to unsettle Napoli's defense, but Napoli still can't afford to be complacent thanks to Nemanja Nikolics, who has scored 10 goals in 10 league matches -- that's the kind of danger you can't look past.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Legia Warsaw: Dusan Kuciak; Broz, Rzezniczak, Pazdam, Brzyski; Guilherme, Kopczynski, Duda, Jodlowiec, Kucharczyk; Nikolics
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Valdifiori, Lopez; Callejon, Gabbiadini, Mertens
At A Glance
Legia Warsaw: 3rd in Ekstraklasa; 4 W 4 D 2 L; League Form: DWDDL
Napoli: 10th in Serie A; 2 W 3 D 1 L; League Form: WDWDD
TV: Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), Canal+ Sport (Poland), BT Sport Extra (U.K.)
Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go, ESPN 3 (U.S.), Canal+ Sport Online (Poland), BT Sport Live (U.K.)
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