19:45 (BST), Tuesday 17th October, Etihad Stadium, Manchester, United Kingdom, BT Sport 3
This Tuesday, Manchester City host Napoli in the Champions League in a game which brings together two of the most exciting managers in Europe. Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri have both developed innovative systems which sees their respective sides playing a tactically intricate form of attacking football.
It is likely to be a breathtaking encounter between two teams who are flying domestically. The Premier League giants have won their last nine in all competitions, netting a combined 34 goals in the process. Manchester City will hope to carry on this form into tonight’s encounter against their in-form Italian opponents who have also started the season unbeaten. Napoli remain the only team in Europe’s top five leagues to have won all of their league games this season.
In the competition so far, Manchester City have recorded victories against Feyenoord and Shakhtar Donetsk. A win against Napoli solidify their position at the top of the group, making them favourites to top the group.
There have been suggestions that Napoli areprioritising Serie A over the Champions League this season. An opening day loss to Shakhtar did little to dispel these rumours. If Sarri does field a weaker team at the Etihad on Wednesday, then these rumours may well be substantiated.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 7 – 2 Stoke City (Premier League)
Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League on Saturday after a sensational 7-2 win over Stoke City. Pep Guardiola’s side opened
Stoke mounted a comeback with two goals in three minutes: Mame Biram Diouf scored a deflected shot from Jese’s assist before seeing his header go in off Kyle Walker. But Kevin De Bruyne produced two clinical passes to assist goals by Jesus and Leroy Sane, either side of a Fernandinho long-range strike, before Bernardo Silva completed the scoring. This means that Man City have now scored 5+ goals in three consecutive home matches.
AS Roma 0 – 1 Napoli (Serie A)
Napoli’s stunning start to the season showed no signs of slowing down as they made it eight wins out of eight in Serie A against Roma. A first-half Lorenzo Insigne goal help Napoli maintain their 100 percent start to the season as Napoli extended their lead at the top of Serie A to five points.
Dries Mertens, who has already scored seven times this season, had two excellent chances to add to his tally in the first half but was thwarted by Alisson on both occasions. The Belgian then had another glorious chance 10 minutes into the second period after he had picked the pocket of Kostas Manolas, but he skewed his effort wide of the far post.
Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina was a virtual spectator for much of the fixture but he produced a superb save with 20 minutes remaining to tip substitute Federico Fazio’s nodded effort onto the post, while Edin Dzeko clipped the crossbar with a late header as the hosts tried in vain to grab an equaliser.
Manchester City Lineup
Pep Guardiola is again without injured pair Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy for the welcome of Napoli. With Sergio Aguero still recovering from his recent car crash, Gabriel Jesus is likely to continue leading the line for City. Fabian Delph has performed well in the left back position in recent games and so Guardiola may keep him in the back four. Other than this, Manchester City will be fielding their strongest team.
As for Napoli, Arkadiusz Milik is Maurizio Sarri’s sole injury worry ahead of their trip to Manchester City. Beyond this, expect Napoli to line up in their usual formation.
Key Battle: Kevin De Bruyne vs Dries Mertens
Pundits have been falling over each other to lavish praise on the Belgian midfielder who has arguably been the best player in the premier league this season. The midfield maestro can play in a variety of positions and can create chances for his teammates from anywhere on the field. Any space left free for him will cause serious trouble for Napoli meaning their midfield trio have a tough task on their hands. If they can pull it off, then Napoli are in with a chance of a result.
Despite having three fantastic attacking players, Dries Mertens stands out as the club’s man to watch for the game at the Etihad on Tuesday night. A compatriot of De Bruyne, Mertens started the year strongly having been converted into a striker following an injury to Arkadiusz Milik and scored 28 goals in 2017.
Mertens is the only Napoli player to have made the shortlist and only one of five players nominated from the Serie A, proving just how valuable he is to the Italian side. Fast, direct and clinical in front of goal, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are likely to have their work cut out against the Belgium frontman as he looks to inflict damage on a so far resolute City back line.
Will Sarri rest players?
There has been much talk that Napoli are gunning for the scudetto this season, having not won Serie A since 1990. Recent outings in the Champions League would confirm this, with talismanic striker Dries Mertens being started on the bench away at Shakhtar Donetsk, This was a plan that ultimately failed: Napoli went 2-0 down early in the game and, despite Mertens coming on and winning a penalty, it proved too little too late for the Italian side.
The match at the Etihad will give a good indication of whether meaning less in the grand scheme.
Will Manchester City’s form continue in Europe?
City are imperious in the Premier League so far this season. Their 34 league goals after 9 games puts them at the top of the scoring records for any major European league at present. Pep Guardiola had been facing criticism for his team’s performances over the first year of his tenure but these criticisms are swiftly being put to bed as his team finally seem to have clicked. If they can continue in this vein, they will romp home to the Premier League title.
The question, though, is whether exist as the test case for them. If City can ease past their Italian opponents, it will be a fairly reliable indication of the credentials of this Manchester City team.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Napoli
City have looked unbeatable in recent games. If they can score against Napoli early on, the visitors will be unlikely to have a game plan to get back into the tie. Napoli have serious attacking threats, chiefly Dries Mertens, though, and City must be switched on from the start.
This will be City’s toughest Champions League game yet, but they have the system and confidence to send a strong message to the rest of the teams in the competition here.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?