Home win vital as Real Madrid entertain in-form Napoli (Preview)
Madrid, Feb 14 (IANS) Real Madrid need goals and a clean sheet when they entertain Italian football club Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium here on Wednesday.
Madrid are aiming to become the first side to successfully defend the title. But the fact that they finished behind Borussia Dortmund in their qualifying group has complicated their task, reports Xinhua.
If last season saw Madrid book their place in the final on the back of home displays in the return legs against Wolfsburg and Manchester City, which helped overturn poor first leg displays, this time Madrid will have to do it the hard way with the first leg in front of their fans and the second leg away from home.
Maurizio Sarri-coached Napoli travel to Madrid on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run. And players such as Dries Mertens, who has 16 goals in Serie A, Lorenzo Insigne with seven and former Real Madrid winger Jose Callejon, who has scored eight, will present a potent and mobile threat to the Madrid defence. Napoli’s fortunes will also depend on Slovakian playmaker and captain Marek Hamsik.
Real head coach Zinedine Zidane will be hoping that Dani Carvajal is fit to start at right back after a month out with a muscle injury, otherwise Nacho Fernandez will once again have to show his adaptability after Danilo picked up an injury away to Osasuna at the weekend.
The Madrid coach has a slight fitness doubt over Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t train on Monday, but the Portuguese striker should be fit for Wednesday’s game with the only other doubt being whether Zidane once again favours Karim Benzema over Alvaro Morata in attack, ahead of a midfield made up of Luka Modric, Tony Kroos and Casemiro.
Madrid currently have a comfortable lead in the Spanish Liga, but at times have been less than impressive, it will be fascinating to see how they and an in-form Napoli perform in a game which offers no second chances.
Napoli are likely to be without centre back Lorenzo Tonelli, who has been out of action since the end of January.