The Europa League is back again, and Napoli are faced with arguably the most difficult remaining opponent in the competition in the quarterfinal round. Wolfsburg come in to this match riding high, and Napoli will have to be at their very best to advance to the semifinals. It's going to be a rotten jerk of a fight, but it's one Napoli must find a way to triumph in to try and salvage something positive from this season.
This is the first time in five years that Wolfsburg have made it this far in a European competition, and they'll be looking to take full advantage of their opportunity. They easily beat Inter Milan in the last round of the Europa League to get here, and have been thrillingly dominant in the Bundesliga for much of the season. Their squad is young, talented, and exciting, headlined by Kevin De Bruyne, Bas Dost, Andre Schürrle, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Luiz Gustavo.
Wolfsburg's style under Dieter Hecking is one that suits their talent well, and their lethality on set pieces and counter attacks is especially troubling for Napoli. They're a dynamic and dangerous team, and they play extraordinarily well at home, with the lively Volkswagen Arena crowd. They've lost just once at home this season, dropping a relatively meaningless match against Everton late in the Europa League group stage, and have only even drawn just twice. Make no mistake: this is a monumental task for Napoli to try to get something, anything, out of this match.
This Is All That's Left
A month ago, Napoli were in good standing on three competitive fronts. They weren't far out of second place in Serie A, they were a positive home result away from the Coppa Italia final, and were doing well in the Europa League. Now, even after Sunday's win, they're probably too far back of Lazio to finish second, and that same club bested Napoli to knock the partenopei out of the Coppa. All Napoli have left to create a good finish to the season is the Europa League, starting with this match.
It's going to be a tough task. Wolfsburg are very good and are structured in a way that exploits some of Napoli's weaknesses. They need to get something positive out of this match, either a win or a scoring draw, in order to give themselves as good a chance as they can to make the semi-final and push on towards in the final in Warsaw next month. Of course, Napoli don't have a great record against German teams, winning just four of sixteen matches against German clubs in their history, including eight losses. The record is even bleaker on German soil, with no wins and five losses in eight matches.
This match is going to be an uphill climb. Hopefully Napoli brought some good climbing gear on the trip.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Wolfsburg: Benaglio; Vierinha, Naldo, Knoche, Rodríguez; Guilavogui, Gustavo; Schürrle, De Bruyne, Caligiuri; Dost
Napoli: Andújar; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Inler, Gargano; Mertens, De Guzman, Callejón; Higuaín
At A Glance
Wolfsburg: 2nd in Bundesliga; 18W 6D 4L; League Form: WWDWLW
Napoli: 4th in Serie A; 14WW 8D 8L; League Form: WLDLDL
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