Gianfranco Zola is torn between former sides Chelsea and Napoli as they prepare to meet in Wednesday’s Last 16 second leg clash.
Zola’s playing career saw him spend four years in Naples playing for the Vesuviani and later seven seasons at Stamford Bridge.
His two former employers meet in midweek to determine a place in the Champions League quarter-finals, in a game that the 45-year-old former striker sees as finely balanced.
“Napoli start with the well-deserved 3-1 lead, constructed from a great first leg where they showed great strength and determination,” he wrote in Il Mattino.
“Surely this will give them the early psychological advantage over the Blues, because of the way in which they won the first leg.
“However, Napoli will have to be careful, since the advantage (not only in numbers, but psychologically) can be fleeting…
“Especially in the first 20 minutes of play, I’m sure that Napoli will work hard to contain the initial enthusiasm that Chelsea will attack them with - and this could be key to the match.
“In games of this kind, when a team must retrieve a result, it is of fundamental importance that they put their opponents under pressure, so as to reach their desired result.”
The former Italy Under-21 assistant Coach also took time to contrast and compare the two teams’ strengths going into the tie.
“From the technical viewpoint, here are two teams with very good quality, probably Chelsea have more as a collective, but then Napoli are a very unpredictable team and especially has great technique and speed, qualities in modern football that are really important.
“Chelsea might find they have an extra player in midfield, which will give them control of a key area of the pitch.
“Conversely, Napoli will play in the better condition, because they can play on the break and surely this will be a great advantage, especially considering that the two centre-backs at Chelsea struggle in large spaces.”
Even so, Zola cannot be drawn on which of his former teams he wants to see win.
“My personal wish is that it is a beautiful game and the team more deserving will prevail on the pitch for their expressionism and quality of play. Good luck to my two favourite teams!”
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