Napoli's recent poor form has put them into a position they don't want to be in -- trailing in their Europa league tie with Villarreal with just 90 minutes of action to turn the tie around. They'll have the San Paolo crowd behind them to rally them on, but it's going to be a tough battle if Napoli are going to win and advance.
The partenopei are going to have to change their approach in this match in order to get the result they need and desire. Jorginho must start after how poor Mirko Valdifiori was in the first leg, and the front line must be adjusted as well. Gonzalo Higuain is a near certainty to be in the starting lineup, and don't be surprised if we see a recently-fatigued Jose Callejon start on the bench. His runs are valuable against a deep defense like Villarreal use, but having those runs come with fresher legs late in the match as the Spaniards themselves wear down might be more valuable.
Raul Albiol seems a lock to start in defense after resting in the first leg, and after a few moments of poor luck leading to goals, Kalidou Koulibaly looks like the one set to ride the bench. We'll probably see the same pair of fullbacks from the first leg -- Ivan Strinic had his side of the pitch locked down and supported the attack well, and while Elseid Hysaj struggled more than we usually see in attack, he kept Denis Suarez pretty well contained in defense -- though obviously he couldn't do much about the Spaniard's free kick goal.
On a whole, Napoli must be sharper and more aggressive than we saw at any point in the first leg. Napoli pretty well played into Villarreal's hands in that game, and their smaller overall players and lack of effective crossing kept them from being able to pull that bunker apart.
Villarreal will be forced to rotate their side some through injury, with Jonathan Dos Santos out for sure and Jaume Costa a great doubt. They're running on a great high, however, having beaten Napoli a week ago and holding Atletico Madrid to an extremely hard-fought draw at the weekend. They're still a dangerous opponent who are well-suited to frustrate Napoli just as we saw last week -- will the loud crowd of partenopei faithful be enough to see Napoli through? We'll find out, but one thing is for certain: this match is going to be hell on our nerves to watch.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Villarreal: Areola; Mario, Musacchio, Ruiz, Bailly; Rukavina, Trigueros, Bruno, Suarez; Bakambu, Soldado
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Chiriches, Strinic; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Gabbiadini, Higuain, Mertens
At A Glance
Villarreal: 4th in La Liga; 14W 7D 4L; League Form: DWDWDD
Napoli: 2nd in Serie A; 17W 6D 3L; League Form: DLWWWW
Reverse Fixture: Villarreal 1-0 Napoli
Napoli failed to live up to expectations against Villarreal in the first leg, proving unable to break the bunkered defense of their Spanish opponents at El Madrigal. The match had looked fated to end as a scoreless draw -- not actually a terrible result in the away leg of a European knockout tie -- but a late free kick from Denis Suarez broke the deadlock and forced Napoli into desperation mode for the second leg.
TV: Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport Europe (U.K.)
Online: Fox Soccer 2 Go, ESPN3 (U.S.), BT Sport Live Streaming (U.K.)
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