Monday September 3 2018
Europe too early for Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti is Mr Champions League, but with the Group of Death and Napoli still finding their feet, Daryl Hammond fears it'll be an early exit.

If Napoli defend in the Champions League as they did against Sampdoria, one dreads to think what attacking powerhouses like Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool will do to them.

There is little sugar-coating what is one of the toughest groups in the competition this year, with Coach Carlo Ancelotti conceding they are up against two of the favourites to win the cup.

What we can say about all three of those teams (adding Red Star Belgrade), is that they top their respective leagues and are yet to drop any points.

Liverpool have only strengthened since losing the Champions League final, replacing the ‘keeper who arguably cost them the trophy with Alisson Becker from Roma and bolstering their midfield with Naby Keita and Fabinho.

The last time these two met was only a month ago. Sure it was a friendly, but a 5-0 drubbing days before the start of the season is hardly encouraging. In the two competitive fixtures they have played, two Europa League group stage games in 2010, Napoli drew at home but lost 3-1 at Anfield.

This year they play Liverpool directly after Juventus in the fixture list, though Jurgen Klopp has his own headaches, as it is sandwiched between Premier League games against Chelsea and Manchester City.

While Liverpool have bolstered in defence, it is their front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino that strike fear.

An equally potent attacking trio is that of Paris Saint-Germain. It is doubtful this was the kind of reunion Napoli fans hoped for with Edinson Cavani, and even less welcome will be the sight of his strike partners Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappé.

PSG also exited the competition at the hands of eventual winners Real Madrid at the Round of 16, but under the stewardship of new manager Thomas Tuchel will be looking to go all the way this time. Their only meeting came in 2014, a 2-1 friendly loss.

Once upon a time Crvena Zvezda, commonly known as Red Star Belgrade, had the potential to blow most teams away and were 1991 European Cup winners. This is their first appearance in Europe’s premier competition since the format was changed.

What they may now lack in talent, they make up for in fear factor, particularly at home where any Google of their fans returns pictures of either stands ablaze with flares or clashes with riot police. They can intimidate.

As can Napoli. No-one will be looking at the Serie A runners-up as pushovers, and can beat anyone on their day. But it has never quite clicked for them in Europe.

They have qualified for the Champions League five times in the last seven seasons, but never made it further than the Round of 16.

Last year no sooner had they been knocked out than Maurizio Sarri dropped all pretences that he cared about Europe, fielding a heavily weakened side for their tie against RB Leipzig in the Europa League.

Under Carlo Ancelotti things may be different this year. This is his competition. He won it twice as a player and a further three times managing Milan and Real Madrid.

What may give them further encouragement is that they qualified from an arguably tougher group in 2011-12. Pitted against Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Villarreal, they came second.

Under Sarri things may have been easier to predict, but it is clear the Partenopei are still finding their feet under Ancelotti. Getting out of this year’s Champions League group may prove a step too far.

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Have your say...
Ancelotti is a much better coach than Sarri and Benitez put together, they have squandered at least 5 chances of winning the scudetto, benitez being a complete idiot, and Sarri a fundamentalist ego tripper with a huge inferiority complex, Ancelotti will soon come up with the goods, he dares change tactics, and above all he’s got “Cojones”to put the “Totti of Napoli” on the bench, because he is a very average player, and most of the time a big liability, he brings in negative energy and the team always performs better without him. Unless he is obliged by the Naples deep state to play him no matter what. Napoli have no complex to play their CL opponents and will do better than anyone expects. Forzza carlo, and forzza Napoli.
on the 4th September, 2018 at 10:54pm
@Doo-Wop - uuuuummmmm excuse me but the team that should have won the scudetto last season actually followed through and won it in the end.

That other team, the one that felt they were owed a scudetto last season, that they only need to say they want it and it'll be handed to them on the silver platter, that team choked and lost to Fiorentina, Roma and Torino all in like 5 weeks time.
on the 3rd September, 2018 at 7:00pm
Cmon Carlo....get the team organized. He may be wishing he took the Azzurri job....
But Napoli looked awful the entire game ...except for first 24 seconds. Can’t believe this is same team who shoulda won scudetto last season. And how’s that keeper situation working out Carlo? They and Roma will be punished for not replacing leaving keepers with quality. ...and how bout Defrel ? another ex Roma player let go only to score a brace for new team.
Roma and Napoli will finish 5-6th this term.
on the 3rd September, 2018 at 3:55pm
I can tell you by the way we play football with Ancelotti that our football has degraded significantly, messy, too many mistakes. Ancelotti brings better tactical awareness but I genuinely miss Sarriball. I fear the Benitez days are back again.
on the 3rd September, 2018 at 12:48pm
This argument of Sarri having not won anything is nonesense. Look at what he had and what Benitez did with the same team with Higuain. The bench is weak. Sarri could not rotate and compete. The defense is not great but Sarri’s possession and positioning made it solid.

ADL did not want to spend. So he needed a distraction and brought Ancelotti so the media talks about him rather than players. Napoli will not go anywhere in CL and finishing top 4 is the best they can do.

on the 3rd September, 2018 at 10:47am
Napoli will not do well. Team is back to Benitez days. It lacks identity and a game plan. There will be great performances but the consistency is gone and the defense is shambles again (second best defense under Sarri, was worst defense among top 10 under Benitez).

Coaches like Ancelotti and Zidane are great to motivate teams full of stars. But they don’t have a clear tactic or game plan and rely on individuals. That is not going to take Napoli far. Neither in the league nor in Europe.

on the 3rd September, 2018 at 10:41am
Sampdoria 3 - 0 Napoli

Yes, Napoli are the team to beat, for sure...

This website cracks me up a lot, like they really expect a team which purposefully exists CL group stages to concentrate on Serie A, so that they can qualify for Europe... That kind of "reach-around" retarded logic is why Napoli are Napoli, and not a top club.

But hey, Italians do have a huge stick up their butts when it comes to Napoli, so, please, continue tooting the horns of the city which has more garbage than people...
on the 3rd September, 2018 at 10:23am

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