26th November, 2013; 19:45 BST
Napoli travel to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund in their next Champions League group stage encounter at the Westfalenstadion. The reverse fixture in Italy ended in 2-1 win for the home side as Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne scored from them.
The group of death has lived up to its billing and the race to grab the top two places in the group will go down to the wire. This match between Napoli and Dortmund could probably seal the faith of both these sides. If both Arsenal and Napoli win their respective matches tonight, they will qualify for the next round while Dortmund will have to settle down for a place in the Europa league. With so much at stake this is bound be the most eye catching encounter of this gameweek in Europe.
Team news and tactics
Dortmund made a good start to their Bundesliga campaign, but have now dropped down to third in the table after suffering from three defeats in their last six matches. Dortmund have now lost three matches in a row in all competitions in what has been a terrible month for them so far. They are already seven points behind Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga title race could be over very early this season. Dortmund are coming into this game on the back of a disappointing 3-0 defeat against Bayern Munich at home. Jürgen Klopp’s side failed to match Bayern in any of the department, moreover the recent injuries to defenders is also stretching the squad.
Die Borussen are currently third in the Group F points table in the Champions League. They are three points adrift of Arsenal and Napoli and find themselves in tough situation. The last year’s finalists lost their opening game of the campaign against Napoli, but bounced back with two impressive results. The loss against Arsenal in their last game though has put their hope to progress into the next round under serious jeopardy. This is a must win game for Dortmund and anything less than that could place them into the Europa League this season.
Jürgen Klopp has to deal with a long list of injury concerns ahead of this important fixture. Ilkay Gundogan, Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic are all out of contention for this game with injuries. Injuries to three of the four of his first choice defenders have stretched them and Klopp is struggling to put together a back-four at the moment. He did bring in Friedrich to provide cover in the league, but he is ineligible for the Champions League. Lukasz Piszczek has returned to first team action against Bayern Munich as he came on as a substitute, but is unlikely to start in this game.
Klopp is expected to make only one change to the side he fielded against Bayern at the weekend. Sebastian Kehl will replace Friedrich in the defence. There is also a possibility of Aubameyang starting ahead of Blaszczykowski on the right as Dortmund look to go on the attack from the beginning.
Expected starting line-up: Weidenfeller (GK); Großkreutz, Kehl, Sokratis, Durm; Bender, Sahin; Blaszczykowski, Mkhitaryan, Reus; Lewandowski
Napoli, like Dortmund, also made a flying start to their domestic league campaign, but now find themselves down to third spot in the Serie A table after two consecutive defeats. Napoli are now six points behind league leaders Juventus, will have to bounce back quickly before the title race goes beyond their grasp. Worryingly for Rafael Benitez, his side have failed to score in their last two matches and are coming into this game on the back of a disappointing loss mid-table club Parma. Antonio Cassano’s late goal gave all three points to the away side. This goal meant that Napoli have now kept only one clean-sheet in their last seven matches in all competitions.
Napoli are currently second in Group F of the Champions League due to Arsenal’s superior goal difference and are in a strong position to qualify for the next round. But it won’t be a stroll in the park for the Italian side as they travel to Germany in what is one of the toughest stadiums to visit in Europe. A point could be enough for Rafa Benitez’s men to book their place in the next round and Napoli could be set up to get the job done.
Rafa Benitez will be without Juan Zuniga and Giandomenico Mesto for this game. But the biggest loss will be the absence of Marek Hamsik, who picked up an injury after coming on as a substitute in the second half against Parma. Hamsik’s absence will cause problem for a side who have failed to score in their last two games as he has been the main creative outlet for the Italian team.
Benitez won’t make any changes to the side which he fielded in the league this weekend, which means Pandev will once again start behind Higuain in the absence of Hamsik. Napoli will be confident of scoring a goal against this second-string Dortmund defence, with Higuain and Callejon in decent goal scoring form. But Rafa’s biggest concern could be to find a way to contain Reus, who will be up against Maggio. Although the 31-year-old has improved defensively this season, he could be exposed by the German international.
Expected starting line-up: Reina (GK); Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Armero; Behrami, Inler; Callejon, Pandev, Insigne; Higuain
Players to watch-out for: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund); Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Napoli