Athletic Bilbao vs Napoli preview

August 26, 2014
By: Nemanja Lazarevic

Athletic vs NapoliFollowing the 1-1 draw at Stadio San Paolo, Athletic are just a step away from achieving historic success and qualifying for the Champions League group stages.

Meanwhile, Napoli did well to recover from going a goal down and the goal scored by Gonzalo Higuain could prove crucial in the final count.

The first thing Athletic chiefs needed to do after the team secured Champions League qualification was to try and keep hold of as many key players as possible and they seem to have done a good job.

Ander Herrera was sold to Manchester United, but the likes of Muniain, Iturraspe, Laporte and Susaeta all remained, while Segunda top scorer Borja Viguera joined from Deportivo Alaves.

After some mixed results in pre-season, Athletic did very well to hold Napoli to a 1-1 draw at Stadio San Paolo, even if they couldn’t hold on to a one-goal lead.

Los Leones were then incredibly unfortunate not to get anything from the Malaga clash, having had a goal wrongfully disallowed and having not been awarded a clear penalty in the dying moments of the match.

Athletic now aim to make things right when facing Napoli, with Ernesto Valverde’s charges 1.57 (4/7) favourites to qualify for the next stage.

The boss has no fresh injury worries, although Oscar De Marcos will be recalled to the starting line-up, coming in for Andoni Iraola.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Iraizoz – De Marcos, Gurpegui, Laporte, Balenziaga – Iturraspe, Mikel Rico – Susaeta, Benat, Muniain – Aduriz.

In the past two years, Napoli were placed in the Champions League groups of death, and after failing to progress on their first attempt, the Azzurri pipped Arsenal to a second-place finish last term before being eliminated by Chelsea.

This time out they face a tough task in an attempt to reach the group stages for the third year running, with 1-1 draw in the first leg against Athletic not exactly a good result.

With so many players taking part at the 2014 World Cup, it is perfectly clear the Azzurri are still far from the desired form, although both Gonzalo Higuain and Dries Mertens had a big role to play in the first match.

Napoli are now priced at 2.60 (8/5) to qualify for the group stages, but that is clearly easier said than done at the moment.

Rafael Benitez has no fresh injury worries at the moment, but Gokhan Inler and Dries Mertens are expected to return to the starting line-up.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Rafael – Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam – Inler, Jorginho – Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens – Higuain.

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