Napoli vs Arsenal: All to play for in Italy

Arsenal travel to take on Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday night, with their Champions League fate hanging in the balance. If the Gunners avoid a heavy defeat they know they are through, but the north London side can expect to face a determined opponent in a hostile environment.

Ahead of the final round of fixtures, Arsene Wenger’s men sit on top of Group F on 12 points, with Napoli and Borussia Dortmund both on nine points. The Premier League side will hope to top the group, but at worst progression through to the qualification stages can be assured by avoiding a 3-0 loss or worse.

Arsenal have been the team dominating football news in England this season, and sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League table. A 1-1 draw with Everton on Sunday stunted excellent form of late, with the Londoners in the driving seat domestically.

Although the attacking exploits of the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud have been applauded this term, the side’s defence must also be praised. Arsenal have only conceded 11 goals in the Premier League this season, the fewest in the division, but the likes of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will need to be at their best in Naples.

The return fixture in London heralded a 2-0 win for Arsenal, but the tables will be turned at Stadio San Paolo, with the hosts favourites to win.

Rafa Benitez has a stellar squad at his disposal, with the attacking threats of Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik and Goran Pandev sure to test the English side’s resolve.

Domestically the Naples-based outfit sit third in Serie A, and warmed up for the clash against the Gunners with an exciting 3-3 draw against Udinese at the weekend.

This result shows that Napoli certainly have the quality to score the three goals required against Arsenal, but are also susceptible to leaking goals at the other end.

If Marseille can do the unexpected and get a win against Dortmund at the Stade Velodrome then both sides here will be through to the next stage. However, Napoli will come out of the blocks to win the match, and Arsenal can expect to have to weather an early storm from their opponents.

For the Gunners the temptation to sit back and defend will be there, safe in the knowledge that even a slender defeat is good enough for them. However, Wenger’s men would be advised to attack their opposition and go out to win the game also.