Next Thursday, March 20, 2014, SSC Napoli and FC Porto will go head-to-head at the mythical Stadio San Paolo for the second leg of the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League. The Italian team’s recent travel to Estádio do Dragão didn’t end up as they expected since they were not able to defeat a well organized FC Porto team that dominated a great part of the match.
Rafa Benítez’s side had a first half to forget where they were completely tamed by the home side but after the break SSC Napoli was far more dangerous at the attacking department and they managed to produce some excellent goal chances. Nevertheless, and perhaps being carried by the enthusiasm of their supporters, FC Porto ended up by scoring the winning goal on an excellent move from the Colombian sharpshooter Jackson Martinez.
SSC Napoli need to approach next Thursday’s match carefully, not allowing the visitors to score first, if they want to keep their hopes intact of going through to the next round. Rafa Benítez will certainly keep insisting on his usual 4-2-3-1 tactical approach with Hamsik, Callejon and Insigne lurking behind their deadly poacher Gonzalo Higuain. The Spanish manager’s major concern is probably the team’s defence line that has conceded 29 goals on 28 matches at Serie A so far and that sometimes struggles to put up a consistent and flawless performance.
Rafa Benítez will not be able to count on the Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Cabral and on the Colombian defender Camilo Zuniga, both sidelined due to injury.
As for FC Porto, next Thursday’s match is probably one of the most important games this season, since the team has lost all chances of re validating their Portuguese League title last Sunday after losing to Sporting CP. The arrival of a new head coach to team, Luis Castro, to replace Paulo Fonseca, injected some extra motivation into the players that grabbed two wins on the last three matches.
Luis Castro is an experienced manager, who is allegedly very close to the players and in whom they fully trust. He has been working for FC Porto for quite some time now and before taking the helm of the team he was successfully leading the reserves team. Luis Castro replaced Paulo Fonseca’s unconvincing 4-2-3-1 with FC Porto’s classical 4-3-3 with a midfield triangle composed by a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box and a deep lying playmaker. The team’s performances improved drastically and despite last weekend upset against Sporting CP, the team is confident of being able to get a good result from their trip to Italy.
The Portuguese manager will not be able to rely on the experienced and charismatic Brazilian goalkeeper Helton, who is sidelined due to a severe injury, and on the versatile Brazilian left back Alex Sandro, who is suspended. If that wasn’t enough, Luis Castro will probably need to reinvent the team’s defence line due to the most likely absence from Maicon, who is not yet 100% fit and from the Senegalese centre back Abdoulaye, who is cup tied.
Napoli vs Porto Prediction
The San Paolo match will certainly be one of the most interesting matches of this UEFA Europa League round, with two historical teams from the Old Continent looking for their moment of glory this season. SSC Napoli might have a slight advantage since they are playing at home, although this refurbished FC Porto will certainly have a word to say at the game. This being said, the most likely outcome is 1-1.
Napoli vs Porto TV Schedule
The Napoli vs Porto match will be televised on FOX Sports 1 at 1:00 PM Pacific (USA). For all other regions check LiveSoccerTV.