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Chelsea vs Napoli: Can the Londoners turn it round?

By Anthony Cunningham
Posted Mar 14, 2012 in Sports
Fans of the Blues will head into this game with more confidence than the away game, surprising considering they trail 3 – 1 on aggregate but we all know what wonders a new manager can do to a team. Under new boss Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea have recorded two, albeit modest, victories over Birmingham City and Stoke City, both without conceding a goal. Wednesday night’s game however will be quite a different challenge for the Londoners. Chelsea have Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge, arguably the club’s two best players this season, returning to the starting eleven and they will need them both to perform to the top of their game if they are to overturn the Italians in what is by far their most difficult game since Villas-boas’ departure. Di Matteo will have made it clear to his team how important it is to stay in the Champions League, with them being all but out of the title race. After being sacked by West Brom last February, he will most likely never get a chance like this to manage a big club such as Chelsea and so di Matteo will be doing his all to make sure he gets the job on a permanent basis. In the short term, despite improving slightly of late Gary Cahill hasn’t had the best start to his Chelsea career and he will have to up his game if he and captain John Terry, who missed the first leg, are going to keep Napoli’s brilliant attacking trio of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik at bay.
The form guide makes pretty painful reading for Chelsea fans; Napoli have won their last six in a row, scoring on average nearly three goals a game. They stormed to a 6 – 3 win over Cagliari even though star striker Cavani was rested from the starting eleven. He will return on Wednesday night and Napoli will be hoping he can score the important away goal that would see Chelsea needing to score at least three if they were to progress. Also returning will be coach Walter Mazzarri after the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed to study an appeal into his two-match touchline ban. The Southern Italian side’s recent run of form has seen them rise to sixth in Serie A, overtaking the likes of Inter Milan, Udinese and Roma. Despite possessing brilliant attackers, Napoli don’t have the greatest of defences, as shown whe Mata was allowed to score in the first leg and they will need to weather a storm from the Chelsea attack if they are to progress to the next round.
Despite a poor season, Chelsea still have a superb team and if they are rejuvenated following the departure of the less than popular Andres Villas-Boas I think they can get a victory. Whether that victory will be enough to see them qualify I’m not sure as I can see Napoli scoring despite Chelsea not conceding a goal at home in this seasons Champions League. One thing to be sure of though is that it will be a game of attacking football with the home side doing their utmost to turn the tie around and the away side looking to hit the Londoners on the counter attack.
Match Prediction: Chelsea win (1.73 – William Hill)
Also – Both teams to score (1.61 – William Hill)

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