This year’s edition of UEFA Champions League competition is creeping very close to the naming of a victory. The preliminary group stages have ended, and the weakest teams have been weeded out of the competition. Now, further elimination of losing clubs is imminent. The final matches of the Round of Sixteen will occur over the two weeks, and the teams that lose by the end of the second stage of the two- game round will be knocked out of the competition.
One of the most exciting matchups in this round has been Real Madrid vs. Napoli. The second fixture between the two clubs takes place on Tuesday, March 7th. In the first game between the two clubs, Real Madrid beat Napoli 3-1 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Now, Napoli is in desperate need of goals as it prepares to battle Los Blancos.
Napoli has been performing well so far in the competition. Napoli won Group A; Real Madrid has also had a rather successful campaign, coming in second in Group B. Domestically, Real Madrid has won three matches, suffered one loss, and played to one draw in the last five matches. Napoli has won two matches and been defeated three times in the last five matches.
Although Napoli may seem to be, at the surface level, easy pickings for Real Madrid, the Italian club cannot be discounted. Prior to the loss in the first leg of the Round of Sixteen, Napoli was riding on a stunning eighteen match unbeaten streak. Napoli started the goal fest with an early goal from Lorenzo Insigne. That goal effectively awakened the sleeping giant, and Real Madrid responded with three goals from Benzema, Kroos, and Casemiro.
Although the numbers are stacked against Napoli, the Italian team does have the home field advantage, which is statistically significant for the club. In the last twenty UEFA Champions league matches Napoli played at home, only one of them resulted in a defeat.
The 3-1 result of the first game between Napoli and Real Madrid leaves Napoli at a two-goal deficit and Madrid with a two-goal advantage.
For Napoli to advance, the club needs to score, at the very least, three goals in the upcoming match. The three goals would only allow Napoli to advance if the club manages a clean sheet in conjunction with a hat trick of goals. If Real Madrid score any goals, the number of goals scored would be added to the three goals Napoli certainly must score to advance. Defense and offense will both need to put on a strong show in order to overcome the hurdle that is Real Madrid. Napoli have the two-fold task of keeping Real Madrid out of the net while scoring three goals. Against any team, nonetheless the current UEFA Champions League titleholders, a 3-0 victory is no simple feat.
Real Madrid may have an advantage, but Napoli is not a team to go to sleep on. Real Madrid must play an attacking game to ensure advancement. If Real Madrid scores even once, the club can make a Napoli advancement an even bigger impossibility. The best strategy is to maintain possession and focus on scoring more. Real Madrid cannot afford to risk loss by sitting back and allowing Napoli space.
This stage of the competition is also known as the knockout round because the team with the least aggregate goals after the two legs of the round will be eliminated. Victory is a necessity for both teams and spectators around the globe are in for a treat as two footballing giants fight for another chance to etch their names in the history books.