The start to this season has pretty much sucked for Napoli, and nobody really wants to face the Europa League campaign right now. But it's here, and we have to deal with it. And hooray, they're facing Club Brugge. Probably the toughest opponent in the group. Because of course that would happen right now, when Napoli have been in terrible form. That's fun.
Start the turnaround
Napoli are in rough shape. The squad is fine, mostly healthy, few bumps and bruises. But their form is, in a word, bad. There's other words I'd use, but the people who employ me don't like them. Such is life. But this match presents them an opportunity: an opportunity to turn things around against a pretty decent team.
If, IF Napoli can put in a solid performance and earn all three points, it would go a long way towards helping ease the fears and ill feelings of the fanbase. Brugge are, despite the perception that the Belgian league is quite weak, actually a pretty darn good team. They showed last season that they have what it takes to compete in the Europa League, and they're certainly a sight better than any of the teams Napoli faced in their Europa group last season.
Napoli need to be better than they've yet been this season in order to assure a win today, but if they do it will just help prove that yes, this Napoli team has potential, and maybe, just maybe, they've turned the corner and heading towards the positive end of that potential.
A tough nut to crack
Michel Preud'homme deserves a lot of credit for putting this Club Brugge side together. It's young, it's surprisingly talented, and it's incredibly competitive. This team went to Old Trafford and gave Manchester United one hell of a fight in Champions League qualifying. That didn't end up well for them, since injuries depleted them badly ahead of a nightmarish home leg, but Brugge earned a lot of respect for that first leg, especially on the heels of a pretty impressive run in the Europa League last season.
They're also a pretty nightmarish opponent for Napoli right now. Think of the kind of attacks that have carved Napoli open this season: quick strikes featuring clever passing and tricky dribbling from players with explosive acceleration. Want to guess how Club Brugge are set up to attack, and what kind of players their front line features? Yeah, this might not be much fun.
Their league form is a bit weird right now -- they just dropped a match to the team in last place, but the match before that they laid a 7-1 pasting on Standard Liege, one of the traditional powers of Belgium and currently a very strong side in their own right. They're in midtable right now, but only six points behind the current league leaders. Once their health gets better -- which it already is in a big way -- and they get settled into their competitive balance, Brugge should rocket back up the table.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Club Brugge: Sinan Bolat; Thomas Meunier, Brandon Mechele, Oscar Duarte, Laurens De Bock; Claudemir, Timmy Simons, Ruud Vormer; Victor Vazquez; Jelle Vossen, Abdoulaye Diaby
Napoli: Rafael Cabral; Elseid Hysaj, Kalidou Koulibaly, Vlad Chiriches, Faouzi Ghoulam; David Lopez, Jorginho, Marek Hamsik; Lorenzo Insigne; Dries Mertens, Gonzalo Higuain
At A Glance
Club Brugge: 7th in Belgian Pro League; 3 W 1 D 3 L; League Form: LWLWD
Napoli: 14th in Serie A; 0 W 2 D 1 L; League Form: DDL
TV: Sky Calcio 1, Sky Calcio 4, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), Club RTL (Belgium), BT Sport Extra (U.K.)
Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go (U.S.)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page, which you should definitely like.