Napoli Against European Kings Real Madrid, Do They Have a Chance?
European Juggernauts Real Madrid has been experiencing some issues lately.
Before the New Year, Madrid had a streak of around 40 games with no losses, but they lost on January 15th, the 18th game of the season, against Sevilla.
In the Copa Del Ray they lost Celta Vigo, and they couldn’t make it to the quarter finals.
They have been pretty unstable, not following their usual tactics, and some key players like Carvajal and Bale weren’t able to play.
In their last game against low ranked Osasuna, they weren’t able to show their usual domination, and won by a score of 3-1.
When will they get back to their spectacular form we saw earlier in the season?
Napoli, on the other hand, had a slow start to the season, but they have been getting into their groove lately.
Especially in the 23rd week of the season, they won their away fixture 7-1, an amazing statement win.
Also the players have been in fine form, and they have been able to quiet their teams doubters.
In the Champion’s League first leg, Italian club Napoli, will battle Real in their home ground.
Now who’s going to get the win in this one!
The general attitude is that Real is heavily favored. But let’s look at how the game is going to go looking at the general form of the team, and the odds.
Over the past few years, Real vs Napoli is a relatively rare fixture, so it is hard to judge this game based on history; However it goes without saying that Real’s squad has the advantage here.
With 2 games in hand on Barca, Real Madrid still holds a 7 point lead in the La Liga standings.
They have been showing their overwhelming power to the Soccer world this season.
Real with superstars like Bale and Ronaldo, has some issues with players cooperating well, but when former superstar Zidane took over as manager, those things started to improve.
Although Zidane faced heavy criticism early in his tenure, he has been able to achieve a general sense of oneness within the team, using his experience as a former player.
His tactics focus on adapting to each opponent’s individual weaknesses, and in the beginning they missed a lot of chances. The team, however, was able to get used to his tactics, and built up a streak of 40 games without a loss
The team has been bitten by the injury bug lately, with injuries to Modric and Bale, but they keep rolling on as the world’s best. It really seems the Copa Del Ray loss was just an unfortunate shock.
As for Napoli, expectations were not high before the season began. Last year Higuain who scored 36 goals, an Italian league record, was transferred to Juventus. After that transfer people were expecting a huge decline in the team’s success.
However Belgian national squad member Dries Mertens has been filling in the gap left by Higuain fantastically.
Lacking in stature at 169cm, he may not look impressive, but he has 20 goals across competitions this season so far. An amazing start!
His false 9 playstyle is necessary for Napoli’s success. Often compared to Chelsea’s Hazard, but he has more direct attack power, with great dribbling skills.
He is growing into the face of the Napoli franchise with his success rate this season.
Hamsik is also playing great for Napoli, in their 7-1 victory over Bologna in week 18, he scored his first Italian league hat trick.
Rolling the way they are now, they can go into their game against Real Madrid confident, and in great form.
In this first leg, Real looks to have the homeground advantage, but Real has a weakness against counter-attacking teams.
Real’s formation that has Benzema and Ronaldo return slowly can easily lead to counters, and can be a heavy burden on the defense.
Both sides tend to field plays who are strong against players like Marcelo and Carvajal. It seems very obvious that their defense is not well formed.
Napoli should be able to generate a lot of scoring chances, if they can break Real’s defense with side attacks generated mainly off counters.
On the other hand Real shouldn’t free up Hamsik and Mertens to do as they please.
The key for Real’s defense in this first leg is how they can react to Napoli’s counter.
Now let’s look at the odds.
The first leg which will be played at the Bernabeu shows no signs of any disadvantage for Real, who show overwhelming strength when playing in their home stadium. [League record 9-2-0] So it’s understandable to see this game in the odds.
Napoli will have to give a tremendous effort to score as many away goals as possible. If they can get a few goals and put the pressure to win on Real before the second leg, maybe they can make it to the quarterfinals.
There is no doubt that the first leg in this match has a more significant impact on fortunes than usual.
Especially if Napoli gets the first goal in Real’s home ground, this game will be tough to call!