A year ago, Napoli failed at this stage of the Europa League. Facing Porto, they lost 3-2 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw at the San Paolo in the second leg. This time Napoli go in to the pivotal match with a 3-1 lead, but face the not-insignificant difficulty of playing away in Russia for the second match. Can Napoli avoid an early disappointment this year?
Making A Name For Themselves
Dynamo are still a team trying to build themselves up as a power in Russia, and a win in this match would go a long ways towards doing just that. It's going to be a tough task for them to pull off, but they have the talent and ability to give Napoli a very bad day. A win in this match would be Dynamo's first home win against an Italian team, having lost 3-1 to Roma in the UEFA Cup in 1996 (which eventually became the Europa League), and wading through a scoreless draw with Torino in the same competition in 1992.
They'll be doing it without two of their best players, however, with Igor Denisov and Roman Zobnin both out. Denisov has a thigh injury and Zobnin is suspended after getting sent off in the first leg, and defender Tomas Hubocan is carrying a knock that's likely to limit him to some degree if he plays. This is going to be a difficult match for both teams, and it has the potential to get very ugly if things go at all sideways.
Righting The Ship
Napoli's form has been, in a word, dreadful. Especially on the road, Napoli have been poor all month, and haven't been particularly impressive since early February. An impressive performance in this match could do the side a lot of good for their confidence and make a major statement that they're heading in the right direction again.
They'll have to do it with a battered side, though. Kalidou Koulibaly and Walter Gargano is out, several defenders are carrying various minor injuries or worn out, and too much of the attack is out of form. Still, they have the pure ability to beat this Moscow side again, or at least hold them to a draw. As long as they can keep their focus and effort levels up, Napoli can come out of this match with a berth in the quarter finals.
Of course, this side keeping their focus and effort up has been a major problem of late. Let's hope it's not again in this match.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Dynamo Moscow: Gabulov; Kozlov, Samba, Hubocan, Zhirkov; Valbuena, Tashaev, Vainqueur, Ionov; Kokorin, Kuranyi
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, Jorginho; Callejon, De Guzman, Gabbiadini; Higuain
At A Glance
Dynamo Moscow: 3rd; 11W 2D 5L; League Form: LWWWDW
Napoli: 4th; 13W 7D 7L; League Form: LDLWLW
TV: Sportsnet regional (Canada), Premium Calcio 1 (Italy), NTV+ Football (Russia), ESPN UK/HD (U.K.)
Online: ESPN3, Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S.), Sportsnet World Now (Canada), Premium Play (Italy), NTV+ Sport Online (Russia)
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