Napoli will lock horns with Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg in a crucial UEFA Champions League group stage fixture at San Paolo on Tuesday.
Seria A giants Napoli will look to get back to winning ways when they host Red Bull Salzburg in their fourth Champions League clash of the season at Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday night.
The past few matches have not been great for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, especially in Serie A, where they are currently seventh on the table. Since their win over Salzburg in the reverse fixture, the Partenopei have not tasted victory again, dropping points against SPAL and Atalanta while also losing to AS Roma, thereby finding themselves 11 points behind league leaders Juventus.
However, the scenario is different in Europe and if they manage to churn out a win over Salzburg it will be a huge step in terms of qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Napoli are currently top of Group E and are the only side to beat reigning champions Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Red Bull Salzburg are no pushovers as they have impressed the football fraternity with their free-flowing attacking football which actually leads to a lot of goals. Jesse Marsch’s men have suffered a close defeat against the same opposition at home and the Austrian tactician will hope to chalk out some plans to turn the tables, this time away from home in Naples.
Salzburg are currently top of the Austrian Bundesliga and they come to this game on the back of two dominating wins over Mattersburg and ASK Ebreichsdorf, having managed to score a combined eight goals in these fixtures. Marsch’s men should look for a positive result in this game otherwise they may drop down to the Europa League.
Team News and Tactics
Carlo Ancelotti welcomed the likes of Mario Rui and Kostas Manolas in their defeat to AS Roma in Serie A, with the duo returning from injury. And, they may hold onto their places in the starting eleven for this game as well. However, the Italian outfit will be missing Brazilian midfielder Allan, who is their only injury concern for this fixture.
In form Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik is likely to start alongside Dries Mertens upfront, with Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon being the two wide midfielders, leaving Hirving Lozano as an impact substitute. Milik, who has scored in his last three games, will be looking to continue his sublime form.
In midfield, Fabian Ruiz will provide balance to their overall gameplay, with Piotr Zielinski orchestrating most of the attacking build-up. Callejon’s experience will be important for the Partenopei, with the former Real Madrid man venturing forward and supporting his fellow forwards.
The Napoli backline looks well oiled with players like Manolas, Rui and Giovanni Di Lorenzo playing alongside Kalidou Koulibaly. Carlo Ancelotti will be keen to keep Erling Halaand at bay as the Norweigian youngster has a great eye for goals.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejon, Ruiz, Zielinski, Insigne; Mertens, Milik
Red Bull Salzburg
Jesse Marsch will be missing a few players due to injuries, like striker Smail Prevljak and defender Patrick Farkas. Austrian custodian Cican Stankovic is out of the fixture after getting injured in the reverse match.
Otherwise, most of the squad is fit and ready to take the field against Napoli, and with Marsch having the option to rest senior players in the league, the core of the team is very much fresh and raring to go against the Italian giants in the Champions League.
Andre Ramalho will lead the backline, with young Austrian defender Maximilian Wober alongside him, while Rasmus Kristensen and Andreas Ulmer will add the proper mix of youth and experience to the Salzburg backline.
Former Werder Bremen midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic will augment the midfield and will be the creative nucleus of this young team, with young Zambian midfielder Enock Mwepu likely to partner him in the middle of the pitch. 19-year old Hungarian prospect Dominik Szoboszlai is also an option for Marsch.
Another Zambian sensation Patson Daka, who scored a hat-trick in their last league game against Mattersburg, will start on the right flank while the Asian duo of Hwang Hee-chan and Takumi Minamino will play behind the Norweigian goal machine, Erling Braut Haaland. This Austrian side might be young and inexperienced, but they are fearless and daunting in their approach.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Coronel; Nissen, Ramalho, Wober, Ulmer; Junuzovic, Szoboszlai; Daka, Minamino, Hwang; Haaland
- Napoli and Red Bull Salzburg have met each other on three occasions, each time in 2019 – twice in last season’s Europa League and once in the Champions League group stage this season. Napoli lead the head-to-head record with two wins (L1).
- San Paolo has been a fortress for Napoli, who have played 18 home games in the Champions League and have won 12 of them (D3 L3). The Partenopei are unbeaten in their last five Champions League home games, winning four of those games (D1).
- If Napoli beat Red Bull Salzburg, they will be the first team to win three games against the same opposition in Europe in the same calendar year.
- Two more goals for Red Bull Salzburg’s Erling Haaland (currently on six) would see him equal the record number of goals scored by a Norwegian player in a single UEFA Champions League campaign (eight for Tore Andre Flo in 1999-00 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2001-02).
Player to Watch
Erling Braut Haaland
There isn’t anyone more captivating in world football currently than Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland. Having already scored 22 goals in all competitions this season, the 19-year old is currently the top scorer in the Champions League with six strikes.
However, he will be vested with the responsibility of scoring goals once again and Jesse Marsch will hope that this time his side will end on the right side of the result. Haaland’s ability to score goals and get past top defenders at will proves that the 19-year-old is a special talent, and the maturity in his game is way beyond his age.
Haaland has led the line brilliantly for Salzburg this season and at this stage in Europe, the fate of the Austrian outfit rests heavily on his shoulders. Hence, the Napoli defenders, despite being experienced, will have their task cut out against the Norweigian marksman.
Napoli 3-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are not in their best shape coming to this game whereas Red Bull Salzburg are carrying the winning momentum from their league matches. However, with an experienced manager in Ancelotti and a team which is more familiar with dealing with pressure in European competitions, Napoli march on to this fixture as favourites.
But, with Salzburg in action, the spectators will not be short of goals and it is likely to be a high scoring affair just like the reverse fixture. Jesse Marsch’s men have the potential and they have shown it time and time again.
But, their lack of experience has let them down at times. Despite the difference in form, Napoli may come through mainly due to experience in their ranks. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-2 win for the hosts.