Arsenal – Napoli (Champions League)
A great game is in store for Matchday 2 of the Champions League Group Stage, the first competitive clash between Arsenal and Napoli. Both squads came from a 2-1 win in the first round, the Gunners beat Marseille and the Azzuri won against Dortmund. Both squads are having an amazing start in the national and UEFA’s leagues.
Arsenal is in their ninth win in all the competitions, 5 in the Premier League, 3 in the Champions League including pay-offs games, and 1 in the Capital One Cup. The Gunners are sitting atop of the Premier League: six games, 15 points, 13 goals for and 7 against. The very first match of the season was lost to Aston Villa and seemed to hear the warning sign loud and clear. After that victories only, Fulham, Sunderland and Swansea in away games, Tottenham and Stoke City at the Emirates. Plus, they scored in 10 consecutive games. In the Champions League Play-off’s eliminated Fenerbahce with a 5-0 aggregate. The numbers are quite impressive. The win at Marseille 1-2, in the First round of Group F was just another notch in the belt. Given the peak of the team the starting line-up won’t suffer a great deal of changes. Aaron Ramsey is having the season of his life, having scored 8 goals in the last 8 matches. Mesut Ozil’s big-game experience is certainly a plus for this round and his 3 assists in as many appearances for the Arsenal prove that he is already paying off. The Gunners good moment is even more remarkable if we consider the injury: Tomas Rosicky is back on the squad but Theo Walcott (stomach), Santi Cazorla (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo, Lukas Podolski (hamstring) e Abou Diaby are still unavailable. Will the casualties start to take it’s toll on the team’s moral?
Probable lineup: Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal – Flamini, Ramsey – Gnabry, Ozil, Wilshire – Giroud
Napoli is 2nd in Italian Serie A: 6 games, 5 wins and 1 draw equals 16 points, 14 goals and 4 conceded. Pretty good for a historical team that is not consider a title contender. Further more, in this season’s Champions League Group Stage they have managed to defeat last year’s runners up, Borussia Dortmund for 2-1, at San Paolo. That is no small task. The Azzuri are a very disciplined team and the manager, Rafa Benitez believes that they are yet reach their full potential. Already they have a significant attacking power and a defensive organization. The clever signings done during the summer completed the core of the squad. Gonzalo Higuaín replaced Edison Cavani in a heartbeat, Callejòn plays as if he has been an Azzuri all his life. Camilo Zuñiga in the most in-form defender of the Serie A, at the moment, and we could go on and on. Other than Christian Maggio, injured, Benitez has all the players ready.
Probable lineup: Pepe Reina – Mesto, Albiol, Britos e Zuñiga – Behrami, Inler – Callejòn, Hamsik, Insigne – Higuín
At the Emirates the world will watch a tactical battle between two sides that do not want to lose. Arsenal and Napoli, both had a taste of wining and being on top and are not prepared to let it go. Will Benitez be able to offer a strong challenge to Arsène Wenger’s “on a row” Arsenal?