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Tuesday August 22 2017
Napoli can represent Italy

Napoli’s accomplished performance in Nice proved Italian teams can win Champions League play-offs, writes George Rinaldi.

Having won the first leg 2-0 at the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli had to make sure they did not change their style of play to match a supposedly different approach from Nice.

Their short passing was everything Nice did not want, considering the home team had only one touch in Napoli’s box by half-time, according to Opta.

Wesley Sneijder and Mario Balotelli, who both missed the game in Naples, were in the starting XI for this clash. Rather expectedly, Maurizio Sarri kept his 4-3-3 formation, allowing the forward line and midfield to form one six-man barrier high up the pitch.

The Partenopei were aware of Balotelli’s presence early on, playing a high-line, which meant seeing less of the ball and allowing Nice to play their game.

Napoli’s main cause for concern was their full-backs becoming too tight with their centre-halves, especially Elseid Hysaj, though their three-way corner kick technique opened up more chances in the game.

Speaking of the aforementioned Hysaj, the Albanian needs to be much more aware of his positioning up against quick wingers. Allen Saint-Maximin had the 23-year-old on toast for much of the first-half, and had the right-back just closed his angles more, it could have made the marking of the Frenchman more achievable.

Regardless of this, Napoli were in control of the match. Through balls and speed were the away side’s best bets at grabbing the first goal. The front three kept Nice’s back four on their toes, waiting for any slip up, but not for the chance to come their way flat-out and rather to do it themselves.

The tie was done thanks to Jose Callejon after 120 seconds in the second-half. Marek Hamsik’s brilliant low-driven cross met by the sweeping finish of the Spaniard meant Nice needed four.

Callejon’s first-time effort also meant the visitors scored their 21st consecutive away goal, a not-so meaningless fact due to the ever-present importance the aggregate result.

The 40-odd minutes of football that followed were a showcase of a very astute performance. Quick on the counter yet reserved in their formation, Napoli portrayed exactly the type of football that can see them do well in both Serie A and in Europe.

That being said, Lorenzo Insigne had multiple opportunities to add more, finally scoring a fine chance late on. Regardless of the goal, the Italian needed to pick out the passing option better for not only much of this game, but both matches.

Being more aware of his surroundings when up against tougher opposition is integral. A chance against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu missed is far costlier than missing one away to Benevento at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito. 

Yet, what Napoli must do now is build on this success. There is nothing minor about this victory over Nice, considering their last play-off to make the Champions League Group Stages saw Athletic Bilbao win 4-2 on aggregate.

There is of course no bonus from this win. This qualification should’ve been a formality for Napoli, but beating a competent side could give them some edge going into the groups. Making the next step of the competition should be a must, regardless of whether it is via the play-offs or automatically.

By beating Nice, Napoli have given themselves a proper chance at European football yet again. Forget finishing third and dropping down into the Europa League, they need to qualify for the knockout rounds and help Juventus carry the Italian torch in Europe. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Juveman.... you and all the other fans need to stop trolling. Why did you feel the need to comment under here?
on the 30th August, 2017 at 6:43pm
Vamos Atleti!.... napoli was real madrid's most difficult game. Napoli used their chemistry to give them a hard time. the difference between the two teams: individual talent and experience. Real madrid won on set pieces. Juve got outclassed if anything.
on the 30th August, 2017 at 6:41pm
Carlo Juve Man 2...what is a juve fan doing here #1? #2. who cares about playing beautiful futbol? anyone that watches and enjoys the sport, I mean I watch for entertainment purposes. Napoli is only good at making pizza? Napoli is known for a lot of things, pick up a book and read about it. Napoli never won anything? hmm so let me ask when juve win... did you get to lift the trophy? what gratification did you get aside from eating polenta or whatever northerner's eat? Napoli is "terra mia"
on the 30th August, 2017 at 6:37pm
What on earth are Juventus supporters doing on a Neapolitan's fans forum?
They can't stomach Napoli's popularity, and exquiste football, Napoli seems to be their obsession, they love to hate us.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 4:51pm
@ AMMO ANNO

Milan was 11 seasons ago, so they're not in the last 10 years as you put it.

And yes, getting to two finals in 3 years is one of the few things propping Serie A up.

What would Italy do recently without Juve?

The others have been shocking compared to Juve.
on the 25th August, 2017 at 11:35am
If Napoli can convert more of the many chances that they create, I believe that they can do very well on all fronts. Ignoring the aggregate scoreline, in both legs they probably gave Real Madrid two of their toughest games last season. I watched many of Nice's matches last season: they were very good, and for Napoli to dominate them so convincingly over two legs was impressive.
on the 24th August, 2017 at 2:13pm
@juliano. Since when is neopolitan a race? Making fun of neopolitans is the equivalent of city living Americans making fun of rednecks/hillbillies. Calm down villager!
on the 24th August, 2017 at 12:38pm
Anything further than the last 16 would be an achievement for Napoli. they do play the best football in Italy at this moment and can play the best football in europe..at times. The concern is that there is always a mid season derailment which they have to cut out. To become a real contender a replacement for Albiol needs to come in as maksimovic hasn't set the world alight (I know injured most LY) and maybe another left back. going forward isn't the problem.Defending could be there undoing again
on the 24th August, 2017 at 10:59am
@ Carlo Juve Man 2 - if all you can do is insult Naples, Napoli and Neapolitans then go to hell you neanderthal!! Your racist diatribe in not welcome...
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 11:00pm
Who cares about "playing beautiful soccer".....??? Napoli has never won anything before or since Maradona's day. They are a provincial, wannabe team. Cannit carry the flag for Italy in Champ League. Nice is a nothing team. Beating them means NAAAAATHING. As for Mr Overrated Sarri.....the guy is 58 and has won DIDDLY SQUAT. SO PLEASE.....Naepolitans....go back to making pizza....that's all you're good for.....
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 10:09pm
@Martin More sad than funny. At least Insigne is a key member of the squad. Jorginho the naturalized Brazilian Italian is also key. Too bad things haven't worked out for Tonelli at CB. Maggio is over the hill but an important presence in the locker room.
Juve and Milan have a near duopoly over the Azzurri's upcoming talent so it's hard for Napoli. Maybe players like Chiesa, Zappacosta, Ferrari, Immobile, Benassi, or a couple local lads will come into the team in the future.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 9:49pm
it's so funny....
The only italian in the team is Insigne.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 8:06pm
I love watching Napoli play and i don't care whether they win trophies or not they will still live longer in the memory than other teams that win trophies but do not entertain at all. I do agree that to turn this side into a perennial trophy winning outfit, Albiol, both full backs and central mf need upgrading. They are learning as they lost to Beskitas at home last season
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 7:48pm
When Napoli play the big clubs, that open style of football will have them in trouble. They tried this vs Madrid and got completely outclassed in both legs. That won't change, and not pairing Koulibaly with a proper CB partner will continue to hurt this team.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 6:17pm
@Juveman,
Please don't talk about Europe. Loosing 4-1 and getting overrun in Final is embarrassing for so called top club. Unless you are winner you have no right to open your mouth, zitto! At least Napoli only lost by 3 goals vs RM. Still sucks though, lol.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 5:10pm
@juveman
"So far no team has even come close to representing Italy well in the past 10 years other than juve." Funniest thing i've ever read, lets rewind shall we?
07 - AC Milan
08 - Man U
09 - Barca
10 - Inter Milan
11 - Barca
12 - Chelsea
13 - Bayern
14 - Real Madrid
15 - Barca (defeats juve)
16 - Real Madrid
17 - Real Madrid (defeats juve)
If losing 2 out of 3 past years finals and 7/9 overall is "representing Italy well" in this competition,then you're clearly confused, back to school u go
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 4:27pm
Napoli are a fun team to watch as a neutral. They play an entertaining brand of calico and should get out of the group stages. Against a higher caliber of opponent, would that style allow them to win is the question if they go past round of 16.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 3:53pm
Beating an over matched Nice isn't all that great. earning 40 million, and a group stage appearance is. However they could also pull a Celtic.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 3:33pm
@Rosario
Ghoulam limited? What bizarre nonsense. He's one of the best full backs in the league, maybe 2nd to Alex sandro. His left foot is a thing to behold, the amount of goals he contributes to is higher than what some of the midfield do. His assist yesterday was sublime, so many leftbacks are one dimensional but he varies his play
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 2:09pm
I like Napoli's style of play, who wouldn't.. but lets not get too excited now.. they beat Nice..
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 1:20pm
@Juveman

Maybe the last 6.... (5 last year if you ask me, considering how we got robbed by muntaris gola) so yeah... do your research before post rubbish
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 12:39pm
@Juveman in the last 10 years both Milan and Inter have won the Champions League. Someone needs to go back to school but then a Juventino has never been great at counting, after all 33 means 35 in your warped heads doesn't it
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 11:23am
@Juveman - and nobody is saying that Juve didn't carry the torch, they're just saying that now Napoli might (should?) be able to help. A possibility of two Italian teams reaching 1/4 finals can only be good for Serie A and in my oppinion on their day both teams have the potential to go even further (for Juventus a semi final should be the goal to aim for and not an exception now)
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 11:22am
I think everyone really needs to chill on Napoli. Everyone is making it seem like they're going to be the new barca or something. They beat Nice, calm down. So far no team has even come close to representing Italy well in the past 10 years other than juve.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 9:56am
@Paolo. Both full-backs & Albiol are 3 players who'll continue to keep Napoli back from taking that next step. I find both Hysaj & Ghoulam limited. Saint Maximin is 1 hell of a prospect. Intriguing to know why Monaco ever let him go, but there's certainly quite a bit work that needs to be done on the final ball. Saying that, Balotelli's performance was 1 of the worst I've ever seen from any footballer ever, so its not like he had much movement going on in front of him to provide good final balls
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 9:52am
@Maradonamac Yes but who is available now? Napoli could use quality upgrades for Albiol, Hysaj, and and Allan. But who? De Vrij? Zappacosta? Fabinho? I can barely think of uprgrades let alone world class players who are available atm. I fancy Reina as he is important to the dressing room, but next season Napoli should bring in a new keeper, someone like Perin. Also Chiesa is wonderful but not necessary now considering more pressing needs.
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 5:29am
@interello

Cause it's the closest you will get to cheering for Inter in the CL?
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 2:06am
Napoli will not win the scudetto. They can do very well in the champions league though. Thing is that Sarri has shown he cannot rotate properly. Also seems like he can't adjust his tactics to tougher opponents like Madrid. They sucked vs big Italian teams last season. Sarr saying that Napoli is top five in Europe is a joke. Maybe top 10.

The villagers will be very disappointed when the scudetto is decided because Napoli will bottle it. Keeping a team intact is great but not adding is bad
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 2:04am
I'll be cheering Napoli on in the Champions League!
on the 23rd August, 2017 at 12:14am
The best thing Napoli could do now is add 1-2 top class players to really make us compete.

Still a great team to watch, but they still lack that top level player with experience to give everyone a real lift.
on the 22nd August, 2017 at 11:49pm

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