UCL 2011/12: The Biggest Match On Tuesday

Real Madrid, AC Milan and FC Barcelona are already certain of their place in the round of 16 draw, to be staged in Nyon on 16 December 2011, and fellow European heavyweights Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan can all confirm their places on matchday five. However, footballing romantics will be hoping that the likes of APOEL and Trabzonspor can hang on to their dreams, too.

Napoli vs Manchester City


It's do or die time for both Manchester City and Napoli in the UEFA Champions League. Manchester City are in second place behind Bayern Munich in Group A, but Napoli have already played the Bavarian giants twice and are just two points behind City with a trip with strugglers Villarreal still on the cards. A win at the San Paolo would seal the deal for City, but anything else would make qualification very interesting indeed.

City come into the match as the form side. So far, they've dominated the Premier League to the tune of 43 points from 45 games - not even defending champions Manchester United have been able to slow them down - and despite earning just one point from their first pair of matches have reeled off two straight wins against Villarreal to hold a strong position in the group. However, Napoli have already showed that they can keep up with the best sides in this competition, holding City to a draw at the Etihad Stadium while keeping things relatively close against Bayern in their past two matches.

It's difficult to get much of a bead on the Italian side, actually - they're clearly a better team than they were last year, with Gokhan Inler replacing Michel Pazienza in the midfield, but in league play they've been incredibly inconsistent and they seem unable to break down teams who set out just to defend. This is all despite the undeniable attacking ability of their attack trident, which features Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, all names certain to cause some consternation in City's formidable defence.

Despite being two points back, a draw probably suits Napoli here. Bayern dismembered City when they visited the Allianz Arena during matchday two, and Roberto Mancini and company won't want things to come down to the last day, where the Partenopei have the far easier task of going to Villarreal and coming away with three points. Watch for City to commit bodies forward and try to overrun the Gokhan Inler/Walter Gargano central midfield pairing while the hosts play on the counterattack. It should be a fantastic match, and hopefully there won't be too much in the way of Naples's traditional extracurriculars off the pitch.

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