Napoli will be hoping to overturn a 3-2 first leg defeat and rebound from a weekend loss as they take on Beşiktaş at the Vodafone Arena on Tuesday evening.
The Partenopei will be coming into this match having endured more frustration against Juventus. In what was arguably the biggest game of the weekend, Napoli squared off against their bitter rivals in Turin. However, it was their own ex-striker Gonzalo Higuain who dealt them the cruelest blow by netting the game winner in a 2-1 entertaining match. That result now sees Maurizio Sarri’s men slip into fifth spot, seven behind the league leaders, who have a four point gap over the chasing pack. Still, there will be no time to rue their missed opportunities, as Napoli now have also seen their Champions League progression become a lot more tougher than they had planned.
At the start of matchday three, Napoli were on the cusp of making history. A win over Beşiktaş would have made them the first team to secure their spot in the round 16 after just three games. However, their Turkish opponents had other ideas, and a brace from Vincent Aboubakar – including a late winner – was enough to blow things wide open in Group B. As such, everyone now has a shot at the knock-out rounds, including even bottom-placed Dynamo Kiev (albeit the Ukrainians will need to beat Portuguese outfit Benfica and hope Napoli and Beşiktaş cancel each other out).
The loss of Arkadiusz Milik has weighed heavily on the side. The Polish striker had started life off well since his move from Ajax, and is set to be out for the long-haul due to a knee injury. This has forced Sarri to dramatically alter his attacking options, with Dries Mertens serving as a false no. 9 at times, and it hasn’t exactly worked out as planned. In any case, Napoli are still top of their quartet, albeit with a loss less wiggle room than before. As things stand, they sit on six points, whilst Beşiktaş have five. And there’s also Benfica hoping to disrupt things as they are the huge favorites against struggling Dynamo Kiev.
As for Beşiktaş, the Kara Kartallar (Black Eagles) finally ended their hoodoo against Italian sides. The win over Napoli was their first in 12 attempts; prior to that they had drawn twice and lost nine times. Şenol Güneş’s men, then, are naturally fancying their chances on Tuesday to do a double over the Partenopei. However, although they have a strong home record – with 13 wins in 14 league home matches – they have yet to beat an Italian team in Turkey. Their prior two meetings, against AC Milan and Lazio, saw them lose both fixtures 2-0. They come into this match having drawn their last league fixture, but are only two points off top spot in the Turkish Super Lig.
In terms of personnel, Talisca and Caner Erkin will be out, whilst Oğuzhan Özyakup and Necip Uysal are in doubt. Meanwhile, Milik and Raul Albiol are unavailable for visitors Napoli. Will Beşiktaş add more misery for Napoli and pip them to top spot? Or will the Partenopei rebound after a weekend loss and take one step closer towards Champions League round of 16?