Napoli host PSG on Tuesday with just a point separating the two teams in what is an evenly poised Group C of the UEFA Champions League.
Napoli have steadied themselves under Carlo Ancelotti after the early hiccups. Undefeated in the last six in all competitions, with 4 wins from the said fixtures, their steady form has seen them climb up to third on the Serie A table, level on points with Inter Milan, who are second.
Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, are a reinvigorated side under Thomas Tuchel in Ligue 1. PSG are yet to drop points in the league thus far, winning all of the 12 fixtures thus far. Their form in the Champions League though, needs correction, with just 4 points from their 3 games so far.
With Liverpool set to face Crvena Zvezda, Napoli and PSG will both be looking to gain an advantage going into the crunch phase of the group stage in the Champions League. Their meeting earlier in October saw them play out a 2-2 draw.
Ahead of PSG’s trip to Italy, we take a look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Carlo Ancelotti chose to rest a lot of key players in their thumping weekend win over Empoli. The likes of David Ospina, Allan, Fabian Ruiz and Raul Albiol are all expected to return to the starting lineup to welcome PSG on Tuesday. Partnering Albiol at the back will be Kalidou Koulibaly.
Adam Ounas and Faouzi Ghoulam were fit enough to make the bench against Empoli. But, the same is expected from the full-back duo on Tuesday, with neither likely to be match fit in time to warrant a start against PSG. Mario Rui will deputise on the left, with Nikola Maksimovic coming on the right.
Jose Callejon will also return to the lineup after being rested during the weekend. Marek Hamsik should partner Allan in the middle, with Fabian Ruiz completing the four-man midfield. Lorenzo Insigne is guaranteed to start upfront, with the Italian being an automatic choice thus far under Carlo Ancelotti.
The final spot upfront will be a toss-up between Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik. The former scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Empoli and should get the nod ahead of Milik.
Lined up in a traditional 4-4-2, Napoli are designed to play on the counter in what is a throwback to the old times. With PSG likely to play their usually expansive brand of football, Ancelotti will hope to hurt them with the 4-4-2.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Ospina; Maksimovic, Albiol, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejon, Allan, Hamsik, Ruiz; Insigne, Mertens
Gianluigi Buffon is set to make his Champions League debut for PSG, with manager Thomas Tuchel confirming that the Italian veteran will command the goal on Tuesday. Tuchel reverted to a back three mid-game against Napoli last time out and should start with three at the back to diffuse the counter-attacking threat posed by the hosts.
Thiago Silva will come into the lineup after missing the earlier fixture in Paris due to injury. Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe will complete the back three. Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat will be the designated wide midfielders cum wing-backs, with Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti set to start in central midfield.
Edinson Cavani is a doubt to face his former side. With Angel Di Maria in form and Kylian Mbappe scoring left, right and centre, we could see Tuchel deploy Di Maria out wide and Mbappe upfront. Neymar will complete the starting eleven.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Buffon; Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Kimpembe; Meunier, Rabiot, Verratti, Bernat; Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar
1. Napoli’s league form does not coincide with their Champions League tally, with the Italian side scoring 24 goals in 11 games in Serie A while recording just 3 in 3 Champions League games thus far.
2. Paris Saint-Germain though, are in a league of their own in Europe. The French giants are yet to score less than 2 goals in a match in all competitions thus far in the 2018-19 campaign.
3. PSG have 12 different scorers this season. Napoli have 8.
4. Gianluigi Buffon has kept 10 clean sheets in 29 matches against Napoli in all competitions.
5. Kylian Mbappe is the only player in Europe’s top leagues to cross the 10-goal mark this season so far (11). Nantes star Emiliano Sala is closest with 10.
Player to Watch
At 40, most players either turn into coaches or pundits. Not Buffon. The Italian veteran will be making his Champions League debut for PSG on Tuesday against a side that is all too familiar with the goalkeeper’s ability. Buffon has terrorised Napoli often during his time at Juventus.
And on Tuesday, at the grand stage of the Champions League, he will be expected to the do same, albeit for a PSG side that seems to be coming together well under Thomas Tuchel.
Napoli 2-2 PSG
Thomas Tuchel will not repeat the same mistake he did the first time and will start with a back three. But, the kind of scoring form that Napoli are in, we can expect them to breach the PSG defence on a number of occasions. PSG are no slouches themselves and will be more than a match attack-wise.
While the lineups might be slightly different and the two managers aware of each other’s tactical system, expect a repeat of the scoreline from October.