One of the most anticipated clashes in the Champions League group stages is set to take place when Scudetto holders Napoli welcome 14-time European champions Real Madrid at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Tuesday night.
Currently sitting 3rd in the Serie A standings, Napoli have not been able to replicate their last season’s start to the campaign into this term. While they are in excellent goalscoring form, netting eight goals in their previous two games combined, the Partenopei’s performances are not as convincing as expected from a league-title defender.
Rudi Garcia’s side had a stressful day to endure in their Champions League group stage opener versus Braga but they did manage to get the win in the end. Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s 45th-minute goal gave the visitors a slender lead but it was equalised by Bruma in the 84th minute. The match was on course for a draw but a Sikou Niakate late own goal changed the circumstances and Braga never recovered.
With the drama surrounding Victor Osimhen sorting out, Napoli fans will be happy to see Khvicha Kvaratskhelia returning to form. The Neapolitans last met Real Madrid back in 2016-17 in the Round of 16 but lost over the two legs.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid head into this game on the back of an emphatic 3-0 victory over a rejuvenated Girona side. The win helped Los Blancos reclaim the La Liga top spot, going a point clear of second-placed Barcelona. Apart from a 3-1 defeat suffered in the Madrid Derby, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have remained flawless in their proceedings by executing inspiring attacking performances.
New signing Jude Bellingham’s six goals in the first seven league games of the season has equalised Cristiano Ronaldo’s opening statistics in his debut campaign for Real Madrid. The Englishman’s goal against Union Berlin also matched the Portuguese legend’s record with the club for scoring in their respective La Liga and Champions League debuts. New striker Joselu too has been able to get into scoring form recently, popping in four goals and registering two assists from eight matches.
Real Madrid are always the favourites in every Champions League game. One can never write them off the charts and Napoli will have to deliver more than what it takes to inspire a win.
Results from their last five matches across all competitions:
W W D W D
W W L W W
Rudi Garcia will be without the services of Juan Jesus, Amir Rrahmani and Pierluigi Gollini as they are out with long-term injuries.
Victor Osimhen is set to start after clarifying his position with the club. Matteo Politano will return to the flanks.
As for Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois Eder Militao and Arda Guler are the notable absentees. It will be a race against time for David Alaba to be passed fit for the match.
With Eduardo Camavinga featuring as a left-back last week, Fran Garcia may be called in to play his natural position.
Joselu will keep his place in the starting eleven after scoring goals in consecutive games. Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior will fight for a place in the attack.
Napoli (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Ostigard, Natan, Olivera; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia
Real Madrid (4-3-1-2): Kepa; Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, F Garcia; Camavinga, Tchouameni, Valverde; Bellingham; Rodrygo, Vinicius
Trambak Bhattacherjee | GIFN