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Napoli v Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to Naples looking to seal progression to the knockout stages.

Scott Heavey

Napoli v Arsenal
December 12, 2013, 2:45 PM ET/11:45 PM PT/7:45 PM GMT
San Paolo, Naples, Italy
Fox Sports 1 and FoxSports2Go

Arsenal travel to the Stadium San Paolo on Wednesday, looking to seal progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Back on Matchday 2, Arsenal played perhaps their best football all season, beating Napoli 2-0. The scoreline did scant justice to how brilliant Arsenal were in the first 30 minutes, and how they controlled the game without breaking into a sweat in the second half. Now, Arsenal need just a draw to win Group F. Arsenal will progress even if they lose, so long as they lose by less than 3 goals, but they would progress second, and thus would have the possibility of playing one of PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, which is clearly not desirable.

Thus, Arsene Wenger has said that he will not rotate much, ahead of crucial clashes against Manchester City and Chelsea. This should not come as a shock: failure to progress would be a massive psychological derailment, let alone sporting failure, and could not be made up. Points in the Premier League, though, can be made up, which is why it was surprising to see some Arsenal fans suggesting Arsenal turn up with a scratch XI.

Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna, again, and Lukas Podolski is not yet quite match fit enough. Beyond that, Aaron Ramsey looked tired on the weekend, and could be replaced by Mathieu Flamini, and Santi Cazorla, in a run of poor form, might be replaced by Tomas Rosicky. With Arsenal likely looking to exploit Napoli on the break, Theo Walcott should get a start.

Napoli are without star man Marek Hamsik, which means Goran Pandev will start behind Gonzalo Higuain. Juan Zuniga misses out, which means attack minded left back Pablo Armero will start. Elsewhere, it should be largely the same side that Arsenal beat at the Emirates. This, however, will be a different proposition, with the extremely loud San Paolo, and because of the fact that Napoli have to win. It will probably be a cagey affair, however: Napoli know that a loss will not do, and a draw probably doesn't help either, and while they need to attack, conceding the first goal will be extremely damaging. Arsenal's tactics should also be cagey, and should look to mirror the tactics in Germany, where the Gunners were defensive, but remained a threat on the break. Using possession to control the game, as they did against Napoli in the second half in October, should also be a feature of tonight's play.


Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Walcott, Özil, Rosicky; Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Monreal, Vermaelen, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Bendtner