Chelsea FC vs. Napoli Champions League: 7 Things You Need to Know
One of André Villas-Boas' specialties is scouting opponents. If you want to know more about Napoli, then keep reading.
I'm here to tell you seven things you need to know about Chelsea's UEFA Champions League Round of 16 opponent.
Napoli: Probable Starting 11
Like Zdeněk Zeman, Walter Mazzarri wasn't going to be restrained by the conventional wisdom of how you should win Serie A games—safety first.
Mazzarri has made Napoli into such an entertaining and must-see side for football aficionados.
Theoretically, the formation is supposed to be a 3-4-3, but it changes into a 3-4-2-1 when Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamšík drop deep looking for the ball.
We'll approach analysing Napoli's formation in four parts: the back three, the two wing-backs, the two central midfielders and the much-vaunted triumvirate.
The Back Three
Salvatore Aronica: Probably the weakest of the three when it comes to winning the ball aerially. During his days at Reggina, he also played at left-back and is empowered when he covers Andrea Dossena or Juan Camilo Zúñiga.
Paolo Cannavaro: Brother of former FIFA World Player of the Year Fabio, Paolo is a steady and reliable centre-back. Paolo is generally in the centre of the three, meaning he sweeps up.
Hugo Campagnaro: Several months ago, he survived a car accident which claimed the lives of three people. Since then, he's been playing the game at such a high intensity. From time to time, he's prone to being caught out of position, as exemplified in the 3-3 draw against Juventus.
The Two Wing-Backs
Christian Maggio: Walter Mazzarri's emphasis on playing three centre-backs places a undesirable burden on the two wing-backs.
Maggio would call it lactic acid.
You can get away with it if you're a full-back because you only have one responsibility—defend.
Maggio is a poster boy of the wing-back because he doesn't shy away from one of two responsibilities, he does both of them.
Andrea Dossena: He flopped at Liverpool but has enjoyed a Renaissance in a role where he doesn't need to be a solid defender nor a solid attacker. He's stuck in between so it's a near-perfect role for him.
Juan Camilo Zúñiga: The reserve wing-back. If he was left-footed, he'd play in front of Dossena. He had an excellent Copa América where he and Pablo Armero caused havoc.
The Two Central Midfielders
Gökhan Inler: One of the most complete midfielders in Europe who is willing to put in the hard yards and controls the midfield excellently. He defines the engine room.
Walter Gargano: The diminutive Uruguayan loves to tackle and is a little pitbull on the field. Adds energy and dynamism.
Blerim Džemaili: He didn't make it at Bolton Wanderers, but is making most of his chance at Napoli. Is more attacking than Gargano, but is unlikely to start over the Uruguayan.
Ezequiel Lavezzi: One of the best dribblers in the world and perhaps one of the most fouled.
Marek Hamšík: Solid distributor and for someone who regularly threads through balls, his passing completion rate of 83.6 percent is still healthy.
Edinson Cavani: He has the "it" factor. He has the intangibles; what he has is something you can't measure. It was what Ronaldo had early in his career and during the time everyone told him his career was over.
Last season, Cavani scored six late game-winning or equalising goals. Lazio can attest to this.
When Liverpool had £50 million to spend, one of my biggest fears was them buying Cavani and matching him up with his international teammate Luis Suárez.
Instead, they bought Andy Carroll who, aside from hacking down centre-backs who hack Suárez, isn't much use to Liverpool.
What Chelsea Must Not Do Against Napoli
They must not play the high line.
John Terry won't disgrace himself in the high line, but I know David Luiz will. He's bound to do something reckless to counter Napoli's triumvirate.
If he costs Chelsea the game, he'll be used as a scapegoat (I already got one foot on that bandwagon), and his confidence will be wrecked beyond repair.
You can already see it, Ezequiel Lavezzi gliding past Terry to get through on goal and Luiz pulling the Argentine down.
Playing a high line plays perfectly into Walter Mazzarri's plan because he wants to counter attack.
What Chelsea Must Do Against Napoli
They must play a deep, compact defence.
By playing a deep, compact defence against Napoli, the idea is to force indiscipline through their ranks.
So someone like Andrea Dossena might push too far forward and lose the ball, then Chelsea can attack the vacant space, draw out Salvatore Aronica and hopefully convert.
Tactically, the three forwards Chelsea have match up well against Napoli's back three because so often Walter Mazzarri has the tactical advantage of his three defenders up against two forwards or even one forward.
Whenever Dossena and Christian Maggio push up, Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge can move into their space and then hopefully draw out Aronica and Hugo Campagnaro.
So tactically, that's an advantage for André Villas-Boas.
Though, he might nullify this by playing a high line and allowing Napoli ample opportunities to score.
What do you think of Chelsea's chances against Napoli?
Will it be wrecked if Chelsea play a high line? Or should more trust be instilled in André Villas-Boas' insistence on using the high line even with a slow centre-back and a reckless centre-back (Barcelona get away with it because they're Barcelona)?
Comment below with your thoughts.
Please read World Football's 50 Best Games of 2011.