With a match in the Europa League looming, many Napoli fans are probably wondering about their opponent. Legia Warsaw are a big-time team in Poland, but many outside the country aren't overly familiar with them. Who are Legia? Are they any good? Should Napoli worry?
Fortunately, we have some help on that front for you. Jakub Jarząbek from FootBar, a site dedicated to Polish football, reached out to ask some questions about Napoli for a piece of his own on this matchup, and was kind enough to answer some questions about the club. So without further ado, here's what an expert on Legia Warsaw and the Polish Ekstraklasa has to say about Napoli's Europa League opposition.
The Siren's Song: A lot of Napoli fans likely don't know much about Legia Warsaw. Can you tell us just a little bit about who they are are a club?
Jakub Jarząbek: Legia is one of the biggest teams in Poland. They have won a number of league and cup titles in the past -- 27 combined, in fact. Last season in Europe was very promising for the future of the club - they won a very tough group in the Europa League and presented a nice, well-balanced style. Everything was ruined last spring, though -- at the end of the season Legia lost the title to their biggest rival, Lech Poznan, and Legia are trying to recover and find their form again up to this day.
TSS: Legia currently sit in second place in the Ekstraklasa and have scored the most goals in the league, but lost their first Europa League match to Midtjylland. How do you feel about their season so far?
JJ: This season has been a bit of a roller coaster in Warsaw, and not a fun one. In recent weeks team has lost many points in the league and lost in their first match in Europa League. The team's performance in their match with Midtyjlland was terrible, it was very hard to find anything positive from that match. The team's ambition is to win the league title regularly and advance out of the group in Europa League, and so far fans and board are disappointed.
TSS: What formation will Legia likely be employing for this match? What sort of tactics and approach should Napoli expect to see from their opponents?
JJ: Henning Berg has preferred a 4-5-1 with two central defensive midfielders. If Ondrej Duda is still injured, instead of replacing him with another attacking midfielder, Berb will play a second striker -- probably Aleksandar Prijović -- alongside their main striker, Nemanja Nikolić. While Legia are in possession, both strikers would stay high up the pitch, but when Napoli are attacking, the pair would trade off having one drop back into midfield to help keep up numbers. In Europa League matches, Legia is trying to play balanced football, with secure defense primarily and counting on effectiveness in counterattacks to generate goals.
TSS: What do you think about Hennig Berg's qualities and value as a manager? He's enjoyed the the best results of his career in terms of wins and losses in Poland, but as you mentioned he lost the title and has struggled since.
JJ: As a student of Alex Ferguson's way of coaching, Berg knows the value of a unified team and the strength that it represents when all players are following the same direction. He avoids praising any individual players. He is a very calm person, and does not react impulsively.
He enjoyed great run in European matches when he joined the club, but now his position in the team is not very strong. The team lost the league title last season in a catastrophic way, and so far he has not found the key to improve team's results in this season. There is even the possibility that next week, during the international break, he will be dismissed from club. [ed. note - Berg himself just admitted to that possibility in his pre-match press conference]
TSS: Napoli were heavily linked to Legia midfielder Ondrej Duda at one point this past summer. Why should Napoli fans be interested in him? Are there any other Legia players you think could have an impact for a bigger club in Europe?
JJ: Duda is a very talented and creative player. His performance during his first year after joining the club in the winter of 2014 was very astonishing. Rumors considering him as a "New Hamsik" are reasonable -- he represents a very similar style to Napoli's captain in terms of how he plays. Unfortunately, so far in this season he has not performed at the same level he has before.
The key player for Legia Warsaw this season is Brazilian midfielder Guilherme. He now plays on the right wing, but he can play in every position in the midfield zone and as a wing back. His technical skills are very good -- he is quick and makes good choices on the ball. He is a young player, just 24, so he'll probably move to better team someday.
Another key player is Legia's new striker - Nemanja Nikolić. He scores regularly in the Polish league, but i don't think that at his level of ability he could be a crucial player in a bigger club like Napoli or other Serie A teams.
TSS: What do you and other Legia fans expect to see in this match? How far do you think your club can go in the Europa League this season?
JJ: We want to see the team fighting for as positive a result as will be possible. They can lose, but style is important. Their first match with Midtjylland didn't see Legia fighting or playing with ambition. This is the most important thing for fans in Warsaw. We of course know that Napoli has much more talent, so even a draw would be a good result.
The team's ambition is to advance from the group stage every time they enter the Europa League. After losing to Midtyjlland it will be more difficult, but if the team could find last year's mentality and style, it still would be possible. Club Brugge and Midtyjlland are teams that we can compete with and I am still counting on that.
Many thanks to Jakub for taking the time to answer these questions. Hopefully now you have a better grasp on what kind of opponent Legia will be for Napoli on Thursday.