The Champions League group stage continues in midweek as Real Madrid head to the Diego Armando Maradona stadium to face Carlo Ancelotti’s old club Napoli on Tuesday night.
Both teams in good form ahead of Champions League clash
This is a meeting of the top two sides in group C after they both came away with three points from their opening matches.
Napoli start well under Rudi Garcia
Rudi Garcia has made a good start to life at Napoli.
His changes overcame Portuguese side Braga 2-1 at the Braga stadium on matchday one.
An 88th minute own goal from the hosts’ defender Siko Niakhate handed the Neapolitans the victory after Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s opener was cancelled out in the 84th minute by Bruma.
The Italian champions moved up to third place and to within four points of the current Serie A leaders Inter Milan, after a 4-0 rout away at Lecce at the weekend.
Second half efforts from Victor Osimhen, Gianluca Gaetano and Matteo Politano, with an assist from the third scorer for the final goal, added to Leo Ostigard’s 16th minute strike and gave the Little Donkeys their fourth win in seven matches.
Napoli will hope to use the momentum gathered domestically and in Europe to gain revenge over a Madrid side that have won the last two meetings, both by 3-1 scorelines, in 2017 during the round of 16.
The Italians garnished last term’s Scudetto glory with a run to the quarter-finals of this tournament, and will have eyes on a semifinal place at least when the knockout stages begin.
New-man Bellingham comes up trumps for Madrid
Ancelotti’s side needed 95 minutes to break down a dogged and resolute Union Berlin outfit, who were making their competition debut in matchday one, but snatched a 1-0 victory via a Jude Bellingham rebound after Federico Valverde’s shot was saved.
Last time out in La Liga, the previously second-placed Los Blancos moved to the top of the standings after an emphatic 3-0 win away at leaders Girona.
Goals from Joselu, Aurelien Tchouameni and the English midfielder’s sixth domestic goal of the season, seventh in all competitions, gave Madrid the spoils.
Bellingham also recorded his second assist of the campaign against Girona, in what has been a remarkable start to his career with the European giants.
Ancelotti returns to Naples as Madrid aim to keep on winning
The four-time Champions League winning Ancelotti led Napoli to a runners up spot in Serie A during his time there, but could only deliver a last-16 berth in this competition.
Real Madrid are aiming to extend their record number of European crowns to 15 following their success over Liverpool in 2022. Last season’s defeat to Manchester City in the semifinals will have stung, and will be hoping to make amends in 2023-24.
This fixture is crucial to both sides’ hopes of winning group C, with Union Berlin and Braga expected to fight it out for a Europa League place.
The hosts are without central defenders Juan Jesus and Amir Rrahmani who both have muscle injuries.
Ostigard and Natan will retain their places at the heart of Napoli’s defense as a result.
Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini is struggling with a hand issue, so Alex Meret will be between the sticks again.
Osimhen will lead the attack in a 4-3-3 formation and the Nigerian will be supported on the flanks by Khivica Kvaratskhelia, and probably Politano after his goalscoring contributions from the bench against Braga and Lecce.
Real Madrid also have injuries in their defense as Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and David Alaba are out with cruciate ligament and muscle injuries, respectively.
Militao will miss the rest of the season with his injury.
Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in place of the Belgian, as he has done in recent matches.
Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez are expected to be the preferred centre-back pairing for the visitors, although Fran Garcia could start after he replaced the latter against Berlin.
Ferland Mendy may start at left-back and will be charged with creating the width from that side in a narrow 4-3-1-2 system.
Turkish winger Arda Guler is out with a muscle strain so Luka Modric, Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga will form a midfield three behind Bellingham, Joselu and Rodrygo.
Likely lineups and prediction
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Ostigard, Natan, Olivera; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia
Real Madrid (4-3-1-2)
Arrizabalaga; Vazquez, Rudiger, Fernandez, Mendy; Tchouameni, Camavinga, Modric; Bellingham; Joselu, Rodrygo
A trip to the free-flowing Italian champions will be a serious test of Madrid’s hunger to keep winning this tournament. The sheer volume of proven nous and steel in Ancelotti’s team may see them over the line at his old stomping ground.
Napoli 2 Real Madrid 3