On the Monday press conference ahead of The Champions League Match, Napoli Manager Carlo Ancelotti Commented on qualifying out of Group C, “If we don’t qualify for the next round, we’re a*******.” A strong statement from the three-time Champions League winner, but it seemed like his squad responded from it. Wednesday night in The Stadio San Paolo, Napoli hosted Serbian club Red Star Belgrade, in a rematch of matchday one that ended in a draw. This would be a different Napoli side with their crowd behind them. Napoli would start the match fast and would never look back, winning this match 3-1.
Ancelotti continued using his 4-4-2.
Ospina got his fifth start in The Champions League this season. He suffered a scare early in the opening minutes, as Red Star’s Nikola Stojakovic ran into Ospina’s knee, he would be shaken up a bit but would return immediately. In the 57th minute, Red Star would get on the board, as the defense put Ospina in a tough spot. Overall, another solid performance by the Colombian Goalkeeper.
Ancelotti stuck with his usual in Champions League, using three natural Center backs in the backline. Mario Rui had an average performance, with his main blunder coming from a poor defensive coverage on Red Star’s El Fordou Ben Nabouname to slide behind him and beat Ospina. Maksimovic is honestly what makes this backline work, with his athleticism and his natural big body, it adds a threat to the attack, as he engages in attacking opportunities. He had a clear opportunity from a Hamsik delivery to score in the second half. Raul Albiol suffered an injury in the 23rd minute but returned right away, Hysaj came in for him in the second half. Albiol status for Monday against Atalanta is unknown.
The Midfield had a fantastic match. It all started with club legend Marek Hamsik, he controlled the attack and delivered beautiful long passes all match long. He even was able to open the scoring up in the 11th minute. He adds to his already glorious career, 121 goals in his 11-year career with the club. Allan was aggressive all match as always, both on offense and defense. Coming off a week of rest from international play, Fabian Ruiz would get the start. Fabian would be apart of the attack all night with his creativity. Callejón again could not get on the score sheet, as he missed clear opportunities to get a goal.
They were all over the final third creating shots. The last match against Chievo these two were out of sync, they definitely made adjustments for this match. Mertens had a historic night to remember, as he notched two goals. It would give him 100 goals all time for Napoli and he is now the leading European competition scorer for Napoli.
For Ancelotti’s squad, they did a fantastic job of bouncing back in three days to play Red Star, after their surprise draw to Chievo. Although Napoli had a statement win, the job is not over. They still must qualify for the knockout round and must play their last game at Anfield against Liverpool. Win or a draw get them through, but for Napoli, they must focus on nothing less than a win!