Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri are two of modern-day football’s most revolutionary managers. Both employ an attacking brand of football that is heavily tactical and requires a high level of specialist players to incorporate.
Yet where City have spent millions to assemble a squad that is running rampant in the Premier League, Napoli have had to adopt a more methodical and patient approach. However, both sides are reaping the fruits of their respective labours.
Domestically both teams are flying: Napoli have a perfect record in Serie A this season with eight wins out of eight while City are unbeaten, scoring the most league goals across the top European leagues with 29 goals to their name. Napoli themselves are not quiet in front of goal and have scored 26 league goals in their Serie A campaign.
When it comes to the Champions League, though, it is something of a different story. Manchester City have won both of their opening group games so far, whereas Napoli succumbed to defeat away to Shakhtar Donetsk before recovering with a victory against Feyenoord.
There are questions as to whether or not Maurizio Sarri is prioritising the domestic league over against the Champions League. After Tuesday’s clash, we will have more of an answer to these questions.
RealSport have picked out three key battles that could decide the game.
Lorenzo Insigne vs John Stones
Napoli have one of the most feared front threes across Europe and Insigne is a big part of that. The little Italian is an exceptional wide forward who possesses wonderful technique and has great intelligence and movement. Often cutting in from the left-hand side, Insigne looks to get in behind the opposition back line and, if he receives the ball in central areas, he can finish ruthlessly. He has arguably been Napoli’s player of the season so far, scoring three goals and creating four in eight league games.
Insigne’s technique and finishing means he can find the net both in the box and from range, making him a nightmare for defenders to deal with. Added to this, his pace and low centre of gravity also means he can turn away from defenders with ease, giving opposition defenders a real headache: get close and he will turn away from you and take advantage of the space you leave; stand off, and his long-range shooting, vision and passing will also cause you problems.
Much of the defensive work against Insigne will be left to the responsibility of John Stones. Stones himself has made a wonderful start to the season and is starting to live up to his much-vaunted potential as one of the best centre backs in the world.
Reading the game superbly, Stones is also a great physical presence. He is also crucial to City’s build up from the back with a 97.5% pass accuracy so far this season. As the English international rarely gets beat in one-vs-one situations, he will look to use his large frame to usher Insigne off the ball. Insigne is a tireless worker, though, and may look to rush Stones into clearing his lines, meaning the Englishman’s average of 5.5 clearances per game is only likely to increase.
Kevin De Bruyne vs Jorginho
No Premier League player created more goals than Kevin De Bruyne’s 20 last season and the Belgian is one reason why City have dominated the midfield in the games they have played so far this season. No player in world football is better at playing the ball through the lines into the final third then De Bruyne. He is also a master at pulling into the half-spaces, making marking him something of a nightmare.
Jorginho, therefore, will be best served dropping deep, aiming to cut out the passing lanes as De Bruyne looks to find his teammates. Jorginho is rarely spoken about in the conversation about the best European midfielders. However, the role he plays in this Napoli side is crucial to their wider play. Often found as the deepest player in the midfield, he uses his impressive range of passing to split the centre backs, aiming to progress Napoli’s forward play.
He is also a defensively strong midfielder and, so far this season, has averaged 1.7 interceptions in the league. That number may have to increase if Napoli wish to limit De Bruyne’s creative influence.
Leroy Sane vs Elseid Hysaj
Maurizio Sarri likes his full backs to provide width, meaning that his team can be left exposed down their flanks in the space the full backs have vacated. Pep Guardiola tends to prefer that his wingers wide and he may look to keep Leroy Sane high up the pitch in order to take advantage of any turnovers they may get in wide areas.
Sane has made a brilliant start to the season. He has six goals and three assists in all competitions for City, despite only starting four of the eight league games so far. One of the quickest players in Europe, Sane has wonderful dribbling ability and, if he finds space to run into, he is almost unplayable.
Elseid Hysaj is an excellent right back who likes to get forward as much as possible, a fact confirmed by his average of 0.3 shots per game and 0,8 key passes per game in the league so far. However, he may have to show a more disciplined performance if he is not to leave Napoli exposed in defence. His battle with Leroy Sane could be one of the key performances of the match.
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