Napoli have reportedly suffered a huge setback in their bid to progress through to the Champions League knockout stages after it emerged that goalkeeper Pepe Reina was unfit to train on Wednesday ahead of the club's clash against Arsenal.
David Hytner of the Guardian tweeted that after failing a fitness test, Reina would drop out of the squad, leaving summer signing Rafael Cabral to make his Champions League debut:
Hearing that Pepe Reina has failed a fitness test this morning. Rafael set to start in goal for Napoli tonight vs Arsenal #afc— David Hytner (@DaveHytner) December 11, 2013
It was suggested by Opta (h/t Eurosport) earlier on Wednesday that the Spaniard would be a doubt for the Gunners encounter, Hytner's claim backed up by Italian site Tutto Napoli, which also reports Reina's absence.
Rafael arrived from Santos this summer for a fee of €5 million, according to Goal.com's Shane Callaghan, with Roma alleged to have been one of the other sides interested in his services at the time.
The 23-year-old made his Serie A debut for the Azzurri at the weekend, but it wasn't the manner in which most stoppers will want to crown their first appearance in Europe.
The former Santos starlet conceded three goals in the 3-3 draw against Udinese but will have undoubtedly benefited as a result of the 90-minute run-out.
While Rafael may be the second-choice goalkeeper, it's by no means a let-off for Arsenal that Reina won't be featuring, the young Brazilian having some impressive credentials of his own.
Per Callaghan's original transfer report, Rafael conceded just 208 times in 194 outings for Santos, making for an average of just 1.07 goals conceded per game.
The Gunners need only a point in order to guarantee that they finish top of Group F, whereas Napoli are slightly more desperate to claim all three points.
Who will win in Naples?
Level on points with Borussia Dortmund, Rafael Benitez's side will likely be eliminated from the tournament unless they can claim a superior result to that picked up by Jurgen Klopp's men against Marseille.
Reina's experience would have been especially useful considering he's played against Arsene Wenger's side on 18 occasions according to Transfermarkt, Manchester United and Chelsea being the only clubs against whom he's turned out more.
This week's Naples visitors shouldn't let the change in personnel affect them, however. The Gunners must aim to win the game, knowing it would be dangerous to sit back and attempt to avoid a three-goal defeat, which could eliminate them from the competition.