Leicester City will be aiming to kick off their UEFA Europa League campaign with a win when they take on Serie A giants Napoli on Thursday night.

The group stages of the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League get underway on Thursday night and Premier League outfit Leicester City will be in action at the King Power Stadium as they gear up to lock horns with Napoli in a Group C contest.

Leicester City once again came ever so close to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League only to throw it away towards the end and finish fifth in the Premier League, landing themselves in the second-tier competition of European football. While they started the new season winning the FA Community Shield, they have had mixed fortunes in league football, winning and losing two games apiece.

Having made it only as far as the Round of 32 stages of the Europa League last time out, Brendan Rodgers & co. will be aiming to make further progress this time out.

Like Leicester, Napoli too missed out on a Champions League spot very narrowly as they finished fifth in Serie A, just a point outside the top four. Since then, the Partenopei have undergone a change of management, with Luciano Spalletti coming in for Gennaro Gattuso. And they have made a good start under the new boss, winning three in three in Serie A thus far, beating Juventus in their latest fixture.

Napoli, too, crashed out of the Europa League at the  Round of 32 stages last season and will want to improve on that finish. Ahead of what promises to be an exciting match-up between two good teams, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both squads.

Team News & Tactics

Leicester City

Leicester City will continue to be without the services of the injured trio of James Justin, Nampalys Mendy and Wesley Fofana. Ayoze Perez, who is serving a three-game ban in the Premier League, will be available for the European clash on Thursday. Brendan Rodgers is likely to give an opportunity to some players that have not featured regularly in the league.

The Foxes ought to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Jonny Evans, who has had problems with injuries, should be in line to make his first start of the season alongside Caglar Soyuncu, who will be aiming to put his erroneous start behind and put up a solid display.

Ricardo Pereira and Ryan Bertrand ought to line up as the two full-backs, with both expected to push forward at every given opportunity and provide width in attack. Wilfred Ndidi could be given a bit of a breather here, with new signing Boubakary Soumare likely to assume the mantle of the ball-winner in the middle of the park, partnered by Youri Tielemans, who will look to provide the creative essence.

Perez ought to feature on the right flank while summer arrival Ademola Lookman, who looked bright in the game against Manchester City at the weekend, ought to start on the left. Kelechi Iheanacho should get a start as well, with the forward likely to play as an auxiliary forward just off of the main striker, who should be new signing Patson Daka, with Jamie Vardy getting some rest.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Bertrand; Soumare, Tielemans; Perez, Iheanacho, Lookman; Daka

Napoli

Unlike their opponents, Napoli have a host of injury problems to deal with for their trip to England with the likes of Dries Mertens, Faouzi Ghoulam, Diego Demme, Alex Meret, Stanislav Lobotka and Mario Rui all missing with injuries.

Spalletti will set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation at the King Power Stadium. With Meret unavailable, David Ospina becomes the obvious starter between the sticks. Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas ought to be the two centre-backs tasked with keeping Iheanacho and Daka quiet while Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Kevin Malcuit take up the two full-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively.

Summer arrival Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa will take up the deepest slot in the three-man midfield unit. Flanking him on either side should be Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski, who will be tasked with providing the forward thrust and creativity from the centre of the park.

Lorenzo Insigne has been included in the travelling squad but might not be risked as he has recently returned from an injury. So, the three-pronged frontline is likely to comprise of Matteo Politano and Hirving Lozano on the flanks with the dangerous Victor Osimhen slotting in as the No.9.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Koulibaly, Manolas, Malcuit; Ruiz, Anguissa, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Lozano

Key Stats

  • Napoli have won each of their three games in the 2021/22 season, scoring six goals while letting in two.
  • This is Leicester’s first ever match against Napoli in European competition and their first-ever competitive clash against an Italian club.
  • Napoli are set to face an English side for the 21st time in European competition. They have never won an away European game against teams from England in their ten previous attempts (D2 L8).
  • Leicester have only lost two of their 13 home matches in UEFA European competition (W8 D3), although one of those was in their latest such game against Slavia Prague earlier this year.
  • Napoli have only lost one of their last 15 UEFA Europa League group stage matches (W11 D3).

Player to Watch

Patson Daka

There was a lot of fanfare surrounding the arrival of Patson Daka at Leicester City this summer. Naturally, so, considering that the Zambian international was being courted some heavy-hitters of England and Europe. Having enjoyed a couple of prolific campaigns with RB Salzburg, the striker has yet to find his footing at Leicester and has been limited to less than 50 minutes of playing time so far.

So, Thursday’s game will be of huge importance for Daka, if he does get a start ahead of Jamie Vardy. A good display going up against someone like Kalidou Koulibaly could ensure an increased game-time for the young forward, while also boosting his confidence a great deal.

Prediction

Leicester City 1-1 Napoli

Leicester have not made the best of starts to the season while Napoli have a 100% record after three games. Nonetheless, the Partenopei have a woeful away record against teams from England and considering the Foxes impressive form at the King Power Stadium, they should be able to avoid a defeat, despite making changes to their strongest XI. The Hard Tackle is predicting this one to end in a 1-1 stalemate.

Leave A Comment...

*