Napoli now know who their Champions League group stage will be, being placed in Group F alongside Mancester City to set up a pair of tough matches between the top two teams in the group. Don’t look past the other clubs in Group F, though, because Shakhtar Donetsk and Feyenoord are not teams to be taken lightly.
For Napoli and Manchester City, this will be a rematch of the 2011 Champions League group stage, a pair of matches that saw Napoli win 2-1 at home and draw 1-1 in Manchester in what was that season’s group of death. The two teams that will be facing off in this year’s group stage are very different teams, though, with few players left from either team in their squads.
Of course, the captains of both teams will remember those matches clearly, with Marek Hamsik and Vincent Kompany still leading their teams strongly. Both clubs are much stronger than they were six years ago, and both have a hell of a point to prove to Europe and the world this year, meaning both matches should be must-watch, knock down drag out battles for dominance.
Then there’s Shakhtar Donetsk, the defending Ukraine champions and a team that, despite falling somewhat in stature in the last couple of years through circumstances out of their control, represents a threat that must be respected in this group. They’re not going to be a favorite to advance out of this group, but you can bet that they’re going to make their presence felt before the group ends.
Feyenoord are easy to overlook as a club from the Netherlands and pot four, and many fans would struggle to recognize many of the players in their squad. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are, in fact, a solid team that well earned their place in the Champions League this fall. The’re never going to give up for one instant of any match, and they’re going to make Napoli work very, very hard to get results against them.
In the end, this is a group that Napoli should do well in — they’re clearly better than Shakhtar and Feyenoord, and they can play with Manchester City. What’s interesting about this group is that there’s no cupcakes and no juggernaut here — just four teams between good and very, very good in quality, and four teams that will be very willing to go for broke against one another. It’s going to be a good challenge for Napoli to face down, and it’s a great test of just how far they’ve come as a club.