14th of February 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
Serie A leaders Napoli face a real test to their European ambitions on Thursday as they host Bundesliga side RB Leipzig at San Paolo Stadium in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League first knockout round tie. The two teams have never met before because RB Leipzig are enjoying their first ever participation in an European competition. Napoli have plenty of experience against German sides, they have played against Bundesliga clubs eighteen times but only managed to win five of those matches.
Napoli are having an almost perfect season so far, they are at the top of the table in Serie A with just one match out of 23 lost since the start of the campaign. However, they failed to reach the first knockout round of the Champions League as they finished third behind Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk in their group, so they got relegated to the Europa League. Head coach Maurizio Sarri will most likely choose to rest some of his players for next weekend's Serie A action, but Dries Mertens and Zinedine Machach are suspended, while Vlad Chiriches, Faouzi Ghoulam and Arkadiusz Milik are expected to miss out due to injuries.
RB Leipzig also started the season in the Champions League and fought for qualification until the end but eventually had to settle for third place behind Besiktas and FC Porto but ahead of Monaco. They have also established themselves as a force in the Bundesliga, they are second behind perennial champions Bayern Munich and have won their last two matches. Stefan Ilsanker is suspended for this match, Marcel Halstenberg is still out injured, while Emil Forsberg is a doubt after having missed last weekend's match.
Napoli: Reina - Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Rui - Allan, Diawara, Hamsik - Callejon, Insigne, Zielinski
Leipzig: Gulacsi - Laimer, Orban, Upamecano, Klostermann - Demme, Keita - Sabitzer, Bruma - Werner, Augustin
My prediction: Napoli to win 2-1.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Napoli win - 1.95
Draw - 3.60
Leipzig win - 3.60
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Even in that first leg was probably clear that this tournament is not the Napoli's first priority, certainly Leipzig are a class act too but I think Napoli's main focus is in Seria A right now and the Germans used that well I think, deservedly won the game and the clash as a whole.
Exiting the tournament could be considered as not so bad thing for Napoli I believe.
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