Napoli – Swansea (Europa League)
Gary Monk and his men travel to Napoli in high spirits hoping to make history. The first leg exhibition and following visit to Anfield proved the Swans could measure up to the best. All that is missing is that decisive goal that transforms entertaining football squads into winners. But they will be against a side under a lot of pressure to present their favourite’s credentials. The time is now.
This time around the Neapolitans better be prepared to go the distance, the Swans won’t make it easy for them after two consecutive spirited performances. Napoli Monday’s 1-1 stalemate with Genoa, in front of their supporters, added to the pressure. Dropping off the Champions League like they did was a heavy blow. But they are in third place in Serie A with 51 points, and if the title is set for Juventus the second spot that allows direct access to Champions is still reachable. If they are to have something to show for this season the squad needs to step up his game. And this could be their last chance to do it in the European competition.
Rafa Martinez has two casualties, goalkeeper Rafael Cabral is injured and Jorginho Frello was never included in UEFA’s squad list.
Probable line-up: Reina – Maggio, Albiol, Fernández, Reveillere – Behrami, Inler – Callejón, Pandev, Insigne – Higuaín.
Last Saturday Swansea travelled to Liverpool, a daunting prospect this season for any club. Twenty minutes in they were 2 down, Reds’ business as usual. Six minutes later, though, Wilfred Bony got the equalizer. That’s Premier League for you. Unfortunately for the Whales side they ended up defeat 4-3, but they made the Merseysiders work hard for it.
One week ago the first leg of Europa League’s last 32 0-0 draw tasted like victory, and rightfully so. Napoli have the experience, the budget, the renowned players and manager. They also have the 12 points gathered in a Champions League group that included Arsenal and Leverkusen. On paper they are in a different division but you could tell last Thursday. And that is quite an achievement, for the young talents and the débutante gaffer. It was Gary Monk’s forth game ever as manager, for gods sake! He urged his side to “show no fear” and so they did. An excellent performance that probably deserved a goal that landed them the 3 points and an advantage going into the second match. Swansea dominated possession and had a few good chances to net. And that can cost them at San Paolo.
Jonjo Shelvey, who scored last weekend against his former club, was ruled out for this Europa League tie due to a slight hamstring problem.
Probable line-up: Vorm – Rangel, Flores, Williams, Taylor – Britton, Cañas – Routledge, Shelvey, Dyer – Dyer.
If Swansea were to progress they would be featuring in Europa League’s last 16 for the very first time. For Napoli, on the other hand, to be eliminated at this stage would certainly be a failure, and a shock. At the beginning of the knock-out stages the Italians were deem as one of the favourites to the silverware. Can they still live up to the expectations?