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?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot