Napoli will travel to France this week as they face Paris-Saint Germain in a high-octane Group C fixture in the UEFA Champions League.
After a last-gasp win over Liverpool in their last game, Group C leaders Napoli will look to retain their place at the top of the table as they face Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have done well this season, especially after the departure of highly rated manager Maurizio Sarri at the end of last campaign. The Partenopei are second only to league leaders Juventus with 21 points in nine matches and are on course to provide yet another strong challenge for the title this season.
However, a draw with Champions League minnows Red Star Belgrade in the opening matchday was worrying while they relied on a last minute strike from Lorenzo Insigne to grab a late win against Liverpool in the following game. Thus, we could expect Napoli to proceed cautiously, knowing a defeat could put them in a delicate situation as they look to qualify for the knockout rounds.
PSG, on the other hand, have won all of their league matches so far and are leading the Ligue 1 table by eight points. However, they need to replicate their domineering performance in the Champions League, having secured only three points in their last two matches, which included a disappointing 3-2 defeat over Liverpool.
Therefore, a win could be imperative for Thomas Tuchel’s side as they aim to finish in the top spot and here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over both the sides ahead of their highly-anticipated encounter this midweek.
Team news & tactics
Tuchel is expected to make a host of changes to the side that secured a thumping 5-0 win over Amiens on the weekend. The highly experienced Thiago Silva will face a late fitness test but is unlikely to play while his compatriot Dani Alves is ruled out with an injury along with Layvin Kurzawa and Colin Dagba.
On the bright side of things, Gianluigi Buffon might make his Champions League debut with his new club after serving a three-match ban. Thomas Meunier will also return to the side, replacing Christopher Nkunku in the right-back position with Juan Bernat being deployed on the opposite flank.
Both the fullbacks will look to provide width into the PSG attack by marching forward at regular intervals, which serves as one of the most important facets in Tuchel’s Juego de posicion style of play.
In central defence, youngster Presnel Kimpembe will come into the side in place of Thilo Kehrer. He will partner Marquinhos at the heart of the PSG defence.
Tuchel has confirmed that star midfielder Marco Verratti has returned to full fitness and will be available to start against Napoli. His excellent ball-distribution coupled with his neat movements could be key while midfield partner Adrien Rabiot will be looking to use his intelligence and clever positioning to good effect. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the threat of Marek Hamsik this midweek.
Brazilian superstar Neymar was given a rest in the win over Amiens but will start as the lone attacking midfielder with Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria occupying the wider positions. The trio has already plundered as many as 28 goals this season and stopping them will be imperative for the Napoli if they are to squeeze anything out of this game.
And finally, the PSG attack will be led by Edinson Cavani. It will be a special game for the Uruguayan international, who will be facing his former club. However, he will be keen to score nonetheless, after failing to find the net in the huge win over Amiens.
Probable lineups(4-2-3-1): Buffon; Meunier, Nkunku, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bernat; Rabiot, Verratti; Mbappe, Neymar, Di Maria; Cavani.
Unlike PSG, Napoli are not expected to make many alternations to the side that secured a comfortable over Udinese. Kevin Malcuit, however, will make way for Mario Rui, who will be starting in his preferred left-back position. As a result, Elseid Hysaj, who was deployed as a left-back against Udinese, will revert back to his customary right-back position.
In midfield, Marek Hamsik was given a breather on the weekend, starting on the bench before appearing as a sub later on in the game. He will be preferred over Piotr Zielinski this time, as he starts alongside Allan at the base of Napoli’s 4-4-2.
Hamsik is blessed with immense technical qualities, meaning it won’t be surprising to see if Napoli switches to a 4-1-4-1 setup within the game. Elsewhere, Jose Callejon will retain his place in the right midfield position while new signing Fabian Ruiz is likely to return to the starting lineup, replacing fellow newcomer Simone Verdi as the left-sided midfielder.
The duo of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik will continue to lead the line for the Partenopei as they aim to extend their combined goalscoring tally of 10 goals in all competitions this season.
Insigne is a slight doubt, however, and will be assessed ahead of the game. Should he fail to make the squad on Wednesday, Belgian superstar Dries Mertens has been already lined up as a replacement.
Probable lineup(4-4-2): Karnezis; Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejon, Allan, Hamsik, Ruiz; Milik, Insigne.
- PSG are the only club in Europe’s top five leagues to have maintained a hundred percent winning record in the league this season. (10 matches, 10 wins)
- Napoli haven’t conceded a goal in any of their last three matches in all competitions. They have last conceded in the defeat to Juventus at the end of September.
- Thomas Tuchel and Carlo Ancelotti have faced each other four times with both winning two matches each.
- PSG are coming on the back of an excellent scoring form, having netted at least five goals in each of their last three matches.
- Carlo Ancelotti was PSG manager between 2011 and 2013 but will face them as an opponent for the first time in his career.
Player to watch
As iterated earlier, Napoli’s Marek Hamsik will play a key role in this encounter, thanks to his sublime skills in the centre of the pitch as well as in the final third. Especially with Napoli boasting a significantly weaker squad when compared to PSG’s star-studded lineup, Hamsik’s ability to carve out the opposing defence with pinpoint passing and dynamic movements will serve as a ray of hope for the Serie A giants.
Hamsik will be initially deployed at the base of Napoli’s 4-4-2 but he could shift into an advanced position later in the game as he is also capable of featuring as an attacking midfielder. It will be interesting to see how does Tuchel cope with the threat provided by this highly talented Slovakian playmaker, who is more than capable of exposing the PSG defence.
Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 Napoli
This promises to be an epic encounter as two teams, on the top of their game, battle it out for the three points this week. Therefore, we can expect a nail-biting contest even though PSG are expected to obtain a vast majority of the possession given Thomas Tuchel’s style of play. We predict a narrow win for the home side.