Napoli host Bayern Munich in their most formidable Champions League test yet. Can they take down the so-far irrepressible Germans? Probably not, but they'll give it a shot.
Napoli host dangerous Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, and the game should be an absolute blast. Bayern have crushed all who've stood before them so far this year (save Borussia Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim), but if Napoli are good at anything it's dealing with strong teams - they've already beat AC Milan and Inter this year and gave Manchester City a torrid time at the Etihad on their first Champions League matchday.
This game matters far more for the home side than the visitors, however - with City already dispatched at the Allianz Arena and looking unlikely to do more than draw against Bayern when the Germans visit England, it looks as though getting three points from this fixture could well mean the difference between second place (and the trip to the knockout stages that would go with it) and third. Bayern, early as it is to be making statements like this, should probably be considered to have first place happily locked up and deposited in a security vault somewhere. The race is for second, and that means Napoli vs. City.
And that means avoiding suffering City's fate at the hands of Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and most especially Franck Ribery is paramount for Serie A's most likeable side. Considering the occasions on which Napoli have disappointed this year - losses to American Hero Michael Bradley's Chievo™ as well as Parma last weekend spring readily to mind - one might not put much hope in their avoiding a stuffing or even coming close to scoring on Bayern's goal, where Manuel Neuer serves as moat, drawbridge and ferocious monster guardian all rolled into one impenetrable package. Bayern Munich are good, the sort of good that means you have to say the word with more emphasis than the rest of its environment, which grovels at the Germans' presence. They are good. Napoli are merely good.
Fortunately for the Italians, there's some hope, because their attacking trident of Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani is amongst the most formidable in world football. It's certainly more cohesive than Manchester City's collection of forwards, excellent though that arsenal may be, and they nearly gave Bayern some trouble in the very early stages. Why can't Napoli?
Furthermore, Napoli's problems have all stemmed from the fact that they're a team that plays on the transition. They don't do well against sides that sit back and don't let them play, unless Cavani is in one of his long-range scory-scory moods, and whenever a side has come out to attack them they've played reasonably well. The visiting side will be doing just that on Tuesday, and if Napoli can survive that storm (they'd better be hoping the likes of Paulo Cannavaro, Hugo Campagnaro and Morgan de Sanctis are at their best) they can probably hope to be the first side to score against Bayern since early August.
However, when your team needs to be perfect and the opposition needs to be poor to have a chance at three points, nobody should be expecting too much. That's not even mentioning the problem's Napoli's three-man back line (something manager Walter Mazzarri is reluctant to change) will have with Bayern's lone striker formation. All in all, it doesn't look good for the visitors: We'll call this 2-1 Bayern, with everyone impressed with Napoli's 'fight'. Some consolation prize, eh?
The match will be held at the Stadio San Paulo at 8:45 PM local time (2:45 PM EST).
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuben, Daniel van Buyten, Jerome Boateng; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk; Franck Ribery, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller; Mario Gomez