Manchester City find their Champions League campaign in real danger of being over at the first hurdle after a narrow loss against Napoli at the San Paolo that drops the Premier League leaders into third place in Group A. The hosts started the day two points back of their spendy opponents but had already held them to a draw at the Etihad Stadium during matchday one and clearly had the ability to give them problems at home.
Walter Mazzarri's side use an unorthodox 3-4-2-1 and Roberto Mancini countered by using a two-man strike force of Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. That always looked like something of a mistake, and despite City having the better of things down the wings the centre of the pitch mostly belonged to Napoli, with Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano doing very well in snuffing out the English side's passing game and launching quick counterattacks.
It was Napoli who struck first, going ahead through Uruguay star Edinson Cavani, who got the fainted of touches on an Ezequiel Lavezzi corner to divert the ball in at the near post. Napoli had trouble keeping City off the ball, however, and the visitors looked extremely dangerous whenever they used the full width of the pitch. The goal eventually came from play down the left - Dzeko sent in a low cross which Salvatore Aronica poked straight to David Silva, and the rebound from the Spaniard's shot was tucked away by Mario Balotelli.
City had their heads up, and had by far the better of what remained of the first half, but they were rocked by another Cavani goal shortly after the restart after some of the great interplay that Napoli are known for, with the striker combining well with Lavezzi and left wingback Andrea Dossena before sidefooting home the latter's cross.
Napoli are a counterattacking side and became even more dangerous with City forced to commit players forward, and the hosts could and should have added to their lead - Lavezzi, Christian Maggio and Marek Hamsik each had one on ones with Joe Hart (and it took the post to deny Hamsik) before the inevitable late surge from City. Sergio Aguero, Adam Johnson and Samir Nasri were each deployed in an attempt to breach Morgan de Sanctis's net for a second time, but the Partenopei just about held, and after three minutes of injury time came away with a superb win.
A win at Villarreal will now clinch knockout-stage qualification for the Serie A team, no matter the result of Bayern Munich's trip to the Etihad Stadium. City are left hoping that the Yellow Submarine will be able to earn their first points of the campaign and that they can take a Bavarian scalp next month. Considering their performance in the Allianz Arena last time they squared off against Bayern, that doesn't seem particularly likely.