Chelsea vs Napoli – Match preview and prediction

Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik has laid down the gauntlet to Chelsea, stating that the Blues were ‘lucky’ in the Stadio San Paolo during the first leg of their Champions League second round first leg. The Slovakian believes his side ‘deserved another goal at least’ and travels with the Serie A side to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Hamsik and his teammates routed Cagliari 6-3 at the weekend with six different goal scorers – and that did not include Edinson Cavani. Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri took the decision to rest the Uruguayan striker, so that he would be primed and ready to assault an attack on the Chelsea goal. With Cavani, Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi all in dangerous form, they will be looking to wreak havoc like they did in Italy last month when they ran out 3-1 winners.

Another positive for the Neapolitans is the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to allow Mazzarri to sit on the bench at Stamford Bridge. The Napoli boss missed the home leg after being suspended for two games after pushing Villarreal striker Nilmar in the group stages, but is back in the dugout after the CAS decided to study his appeal. Mazzarri was furious with his defence after they leaked three goals this weekend and they will again play their 3-4-3 formation.

Chelsea will have confidence of exploiting the Napoli defence, but it is their own backline that caused them problems in the first leg. David Luiz’s error for the third Napoli goal summed up a night of hesitancy and awful decision making by the Chelsea back four. Captain John Terry missed the game in Italy, but made his return from knee surgery on Saturday and is expected to partner Gary Cahill in central defence to add stability once again.

Andre Villas-Boas drew criticism for his decision to leave Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien out of the starting lineup in the San Paolo. The Portuguese boss has now left Stamford Bridge and interim manager Roberto di Matteo has made a 100% start, beating Birmingham City and Stoke. The Italian is expected to recall Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge after they were rested against the Potters on Saturday. Didier Drogba, fresh from his winner against Stoke, should continue to spearhead the attack at the expense of Fernando Torres.

The Blues will take heart from Arsenal’s valiant efforts against AC Milan last week and with Chelsea already having an away goal, their task becomes a lot easier. The return of Terry will help to defuse the attacking threat Napoli possess and a 2-0 win would be enough to see Chelsea progress as the only English team in the quarter-finals. Napoli’s front three of Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi are so potent and Chelsea will have to be on their guard to stop them scoring. The case could be that Chelsea win on the night, but either not by enough goals or Napoli score more away goals and progress despite defeat.

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