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Match Previews

Champions League: Napoli vs Arsenal Match Preview

Allen Hamilton

What: UEFA Champions League – Group F
Who: Napoli vs Barcelona
When: Wednesday 11th December, 2013, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: San Paolo, Naples, Italy

Relying On A Little Luck

Unless Napoli can beat Arsenal by three goals, they will be relying on a favour from Marseille, who host Borussia Dortmund. The prospect of the French outfit beating Dortmund, the only result which would allow Napoli to qualify without beating Arsenal, seems far-fetched, but the Italians may well hope the French can hold Dortmund to a draw while they put Arsenal to the sword.

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez can afford to cut a positive figure, with his side's form in Europe good. Indeed, their last Champions League game, which saw them lose 3-1 away at Dortmund, did not reflect the passage of play over the 90 minutes, during which time Napoli really should have wrapped up not just a point, but all three. 

Nevertheless, Benitez is not becoming overconfident, with Arsenal tough opponents. "Arsenal are a quality team who are really quick on the counter-attack", warned the former Liverpool manager. "We just have to stay balanced against opponents as strong as them." Benitez also vowed not to spend energy worrying about events in France, but simply aim to beat Arsenal. 

Unthinkable Elimination

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has the look of a man who cannot quite believe his side could fail to qualify for the Round of 16 despite having accumulated 12 points from five games so far. But that is the position Arsenal may find themselves in if they suffer a heavy loss in Italy.

Wenger knows though that it would take Napoli victory by three goals for his side to be at risk of being eliminated. And while that creates its own problem in wondering how to approach the game, defend or attack, the Frenchman should at least feel confident that a real thrashing would go against all he has seen from his team this season.

And the Arsenal boss will not obsess about finishing first in the group, with qualification the main thing on his mind. He explained: "The most important thing is to progress from the group. Of course we would like to be first in the group, but to qualify is the most important thing."


Recent form

Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Napoli (26/11; Champions League)
Lazio 2-4 Napoli (02/12; Serie A)
Napoli 3-3 Udinese (07/12; Serie A)

Cardiff 0-3 Arsenal (30/11; Premier League)
Arsenal 2-0 Hull (04/12; Premier League)
Arsenal 1-1 Everton (08/12; Premier League)

Key absences

Napoli: Pepe Reina (doubt); Marek Hamsik; Camilo Zuniga; Giandomenico Mesto

Arsenal: Abou Diaby; Lukas Podolski; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Players to watch

Napoli: Gonzalo Higuain: Wenger openly admits to having chased the Argentine striker in the summer and continues to rate him highly. Napoli won the race and Higuain has looked sharp. It is hard to imagine any Napoli win can come without the former Real Madrid man firing.

Arsenal: Olivier Giroud: The striker currently causing Arsenal not to regret their failure to bag Higuain too much. Giroud can be a handful for opposing defences and if the Frenchman can find a way through the Napoli backline, the Italian side's charge could be snuffed out.

Match Prediction

Napoli must go all out to win this game, which is sure to leave them open to swift counter attacks from Arsenal. The Gunners are perhaps too good not to take advantage and Napoli may have to settle for a draw. Napoli 2-2 Arsenal.

Fancy a bet on the Champions League? Don't forget to check out Inside-Bet.com, our dedicated betting site.  


Published: Wednesday, 11th Dec 2013