The Champions League is coming back to the Stadio San Paolo, and oh holy mother of Hamsik is the stress level high because of it. That’s because Napoli will be hosting Portuguese powerhouses Benfica, their toughest foes in the group and a matchup that will be extremely difficult for Napoli.
Benfica are on top of the Preimeira Liga, and they’re a well-balanced, aggressive team who present a lot of issues for Napoli’s playstyle. They press hard and look to exploit any mistakes that creates. They’re a tricky foe for Napoli to deal with — but not an insurmountable one.
For all their quality, Benfica aren’t perfect. They could only manage a draw against Besiktas at home in their first Champions League match, and they lost a lot of premium talent this summer and struggled to replace it. Their talent factory of an academy hasn’t quite caught up yet, but they’re still a strong team worth taking very seriously.
Helping Napoli somewhat is that Benfica are dealing with several injuries, including their three best strikers plus key midfielder Rafa Silva. In contrast, Napoli are missing only a rotation defender in Vlad Chiriches, and their recent pattern of rotation should leave most of their important players well rested.
Still, Napoli will need to come out swinging and have a strong start to the match. If Benfica get any opportunity, any opening, Napoli will regret it — so they’ll need to do everything they can to slam the door shut on this match as early as they can.
When: Wednesday, 8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy
TV: PremiumSport HD (Italy), Sport TV1 (Portugal), BT Sport Extra (U.K.)
Online: Fox Soccer 2GO, ESPN3, WatchESPN (U.S.)