Chelsea vs Napoli : 5 Players Who Will Decide the Outcome of the Fixture
When Chelsea play host to the in-form Napoli in their second-leg encounter of the UEFA Champions' League knock-out round, it shall not only be their prestige at stake, but all of English football's as well.
This edition of the Champions' League has been rather harsh on Premier League clubs with the two Manchester clubs failing to overcome the group stages leaving Chelsea and Arsenal the responsibilities to take forward the English cause.
Arsenal and Chelsea were handed tough draws with AC Milan and Napoli as the their opponents in the knock-out stages. Arsenal have bowed out of the competition in style having failed to register a miraculous comeback just slightly.
That leaves Chelsea as the only English club left in the competition, and Terry & Co. face a tough task to turnaround their 3-1 away loss at Naples. While Napoli has been impressive since their first-leg face-off, Chelsea have not been at the best of conditions. In the week's since their away fixture against Napoli, Chelsea have suffered domestically in their race for fourth place finish, and their manager Andre Villas-Boas has been sacked as well.
While in their present form, Chelsea are not favourites to overcome the Italians, but they do hold a slim chance to grab a miraculous win and seal further progress in the competition.
The match promises to be an exciting one with lots of adrenaline pumping both on and off the field. So while Chelsea prepares for their "most important" match of the season and Napoli plots their way to overcome the Pensioners.
Lets have a quick peek into the five players who will play a vital role in deciding the final outcome of the fixture.
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The in-form Uruguayan striker has been one of the vital players for the Italians.
In the first-leg he handed Napoli the lead at the stroke of half-time which changed the flow of the game in the Italians' favour.
Starting at the tip of the Napoli attack, Cavani has exploited his resources well this season to score goals galore. With five goals and two assists, Cavani is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous players for Napoli,mand Chelsea shall have to work hard to keep him in control.
In the previous fixture, Cavani made Ivanovic pay for his mistake and a similar miss again could see the fiery striker turn the tables in his club's favour.
If Chelsea are to progress into the final, they shall need to keep Cavani in chains or else the match might be over even before the half-time whistle.
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Chelsea has received a huge morale boost ahead of their crucial Champions' League fixture against Napoli, as their captain John Terry has returned from an injury that had seen him miss out first-team action for a fortnight.
The return of their dependable and legendary captain will not only provide the much needed stability at the back, but also bring the defense solidity that was missing.
David Luiz and Gary Cahill had a horrid time against Napoli in the earlier fixture as the Triad—Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani wreaked havoc in the Blues' box. With Terry back in the first team, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo must have heaved a sigh of relief.
When Chelsea take on Napoli at Stamford Bridge they shall have their hands full with a two-goal deficit to overcome for making it to the next rounds. As expected Chelsea shall look to attack from the kick-off whistle if they are to score two goals past the favourites.
Napoli, in the previous leg had caught Chelsea off guard twice, and made them pay for the mistakes. This time too, the Italians will be looking to catch Chelsea on the break as the attacking play would mean more defensive gaps at the back.
That is where the experience and skills of the former England captain shall make a difference. Terry is one of the best defenders in the world and his presence provides a sense of safety in the defense.
With John Terry on guard at the back, Chelsea can play attacking football with much less tension. He also has the strength, understanding and temperament to keep the high-flying Cavani on check which is must if Chelsea are to take anything out of the match.
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The timid Argentine had wreaked havoc on the Chelsea defense in the first leg, scoring the equaliser as well as the third.
The man of the match created constant pressure on the Chelsea defenders with his pacey runs and creativity.
His superb dribbling abilities left a hapless Ivanovic on his wake more than often. The Argentine has since then kept his scoring form intact scoring in Napoli's every fixture.
Villas-Boas's inability to keep Lavezzi on check cost him his job and present manager Roberto Di Matteo will be wary of not repeating those mistakes yet again.
Lavezzi's creativity and pace is vital for the Napoli attack, and Chelsea will be looking to keep the leash around him. The Argentine has garnered serious interest from several top European clubs this season and will be looking to prove his quality further against a opposition of Chelsea's stature.
While failure to control Lavezzi might hasten Chelsea's exit from European football this season, a successful attempt might see them nullify Napoli's attack handing Chelsea a chance to resurrect their falling season.
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With four goals in his last five Champions' League appearances, Didier Drogba is the key to Chelsea having any hopes of progressing further in the competition.
Though the fiery Ivorian failed to score against Napoli on the first leg, it is a known fact that Drogba is a big match player and loves to score in big matches.
The Blues' faithful will be hoping for their big man to deliver yet again, as he did against Valencia in their crucial group stage match. In that match the striker notched up an incredible hat-trick to guide Chelsea into the next round.
Chelsea will be hoping to exploit Napoli's three man defense, and for that they need Drogba at his best. While Napoli would be wary of his threat, they are not strong enough defensively to put check on an in-form Drogba.
With Torres still failing to score goals and looking unconvincing, Di Matteo will likely hand his Ivorian striker the start. Chelsea's quest might well be dead if Drogba fails to live up to his reputation, while anything near to his form against Valencia will be enough to see Chelsea through in a miraculous fashion.
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Perhaps Chelsea's best and most consistent player this season has been the former Valencia man.
The Spaniard has developed into Chelsea's spine in the midfield—providing the Blues' with much needed creativity in front of the goal. He scored Chelsea's opener in the first leg and will be looking to add his tally further when the Partenopei come visiting.
He has played comfortably both in left wing, as well as behind the striker, delivering consistently with assists and goals. Chelsea need their Spanish midfield wizard to be at his best if they are to turnaround their deficit and progress further.
With Chelsea suffering from failure to convert their chances this season, Mata has a vital role to play if the Blues' are to keep the English flag flying in the Champions' League.
Chelsea will need his creative spark to break the Napoli defense, along with his eye for goal to overcome the Italians.