Five reasons to be fearful for Chelsea hopes

As Manchester City learnt, Naples is no walk in the park, says Jack Pitt-Brooke

The atmosphere

Despite Stadio San Paolo being basically a cavernous concrete bowl, the atmosphere at Napoli games is ferocious. The ground will be full by mid-afternoon today, as the fans flood into Curva A and Curva B. Even given the presence of both a running track and, bizarrely, a moat between the pitch and the stands, the roar of the fans should Napoli score will be unlike anything the Chelsea players have heard before.

Even more intimidating, though, will be the whistling if Chelsea have the ball towards the end of the game. The intensity of the noise in the final stage of Manchester City's 2-1 defeat last November was remarkable, seeming almost to repel City's late attacks by its sheer hostility.

 

The defensive wall

That protection from the crowd is almost unnecessary now, though, because of the quality of Napoli's defence. Unlike most teams that Chelsea face, Napoli play with three centre-backs: usually Hugo Campagnaro, Salvatore Aronica and captain Paolo Cannavaro. If Campagnaro does not recover from a calf injury then Gianluca Grava will play instead. Any combination of three would be exceptionally well organised and disciplined, as well as being comfortable in possession.

It means that when wing-backs Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga drop back to help, Napoli have a deep line of five defenders which is nearly impenetrable. Twice they frustrated City with it, and Chelsea will sweat to break through it tonight.

 

The transition to attack

Napoli are probably Europe's fastest counter-attacking side since Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United. When they win the ball back, wing-backs Maggio and Zuniga step up, turning their watertight 5-3-2 into a relentless 3-4-3. Like all good sides, they defend as a team and attack as a team. And once their famous front three, the il Tridente of Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani have the ball, they can tear through teams. It is not just that the three are all fast, incisive, imaginative footballers, but that they know each other's game so well that one meets the runs and passes of the others as if by telepathy. Chelsea's defenders can expect a difficult evening.

 

Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan spearhead of Napoli's attack is a remarkable mixture of physical and technical gifts. Cavani even gives the impression of a thoroughbred racehorse, with his galloping legs and long mane of dark hair, and would certainly beat every Chelsea defender in a foot race. But he also has teasing movement, ruthless finishing and a perfect first touch to call upon. He scored all three of Napoli's goals against Manchester City in the group stage and has 55 in 77 for Napoli since he joined from Palermo in the summer of 2010.

 

Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi

Cavani would not be the same without the support of the Slovakian Hamsik and the Argentine Lavezzi, though. Hamsik is a bright runner, who acts as a link between the midfield and the two South American forwards, and chooses his moments perfectly when breaking into the box.

Lavezzi is arguably the finest player of the three. He is a scampering tattooed trickster, combining the waspish energy of his compatriot Carlos Tevez with the imaginative and delightful skill of Juan Roman Riquelme.

He is quicker than he looks, able to burst past defenders from a standing start, and has very well-tuned antennae for seeking out space and danger. He plays just off Cavani, knowing that defenders will soon worry about him and leave his team-mates unguarded.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions