An Ill-Tempered History: Real Madrid vs. Napoli Match Preview

Luka Modric of Real Madrid holds his press conference at Valdebebas training ground on February 14, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Luka Modric of Real Madrid holds his press conference at Valdebebas training ground on February 14, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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With a short but very interesting Champions League history, Napoli visit the Santiago Bernabéu for the first time in nearly 30 years. Here’s everything you need to know before today’s match:

Champions League Training
MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 14: Real Madrid players take part in a training session at Valdebebas training ground on February 14, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid spent most of Tuesday training for their upcoming Champions League match vs Napoli. Its no surprise that they are preparing so much for a seemingly average match. Tomorrow will be an important day for both Napoli and Real Madrid. They don’t have the most extensive history or rivalry, but the last, and only time they’ve met in the Champions League, was a game that went in the history books as a unique occasion.

Match History

“He is one of the best players in history and a good person…but Thank God he is not playing anymore.” -Luka Modric on Maradona

Both teams coincidentally have met in the round of 16 before. The first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu was played in an empty stadium and featured some of the most brutal football in Champions League history. Napoli played a very, physical game, for lack of a better term.

After countless fouls Leo Beenhakker, Real Madrid’s head coach at the time, felt he had no choice but to call the whole Napoli team “Mafiosos“, or mobsters. It without a doubt went into the history books as one of the first dramatic games of the competition. The 2-0 win by Los Blancos was bittersweet due to one of the goals being a penalty and the other an own goal. Real Madrid could not beat Napoli on technical ability alone.

The second leg was a blockbuster of a game. 82,231 fans showed up to watch the teams play. Napoli came out and completely dominated the match for the first half. Napoli had scored and were one goal away from making things level on aggregate. Unfortunately for Napoli, Real managed to recover just before the end of the first half and Butragueño managed to score in the 44th minute. Real Madrid went on to be eliminated in the semifinals by PSV Eindhoven on away goals

Players To Watch

Both teams have great squads, although Los Blancos admittedly have an advantage in that department. On Napoli’s side, watch out for Dries Mertens. With 16 goals in the Serie A so far, as well as 4 goals in the Champions League this year, he’s going to be the Madrid’s worst nightmare if the defense isn’t on point. Expect him to be roaming in the final third in hopes of scoring a huge away leg goal.

More from The Real Champs

On Real Madrid’s side, watch out for Sergio Ramos. Tomorrow will be his biggest test this season. Real’s rivals, FC Barcelona, are already on the verge of being eliminated in the round of 16 following a 4-0 defeat in Paris at the hands of PSG. If Real don’t want to end up in the same situation, Ramos has to be on his best behavior. That means no needless mistakes, no unnecessary fouls near the box, and no bad positioning on his behalf. He will also be commanding the backline, so he needs to stay clearheaded today if they hope to win.

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 14: Keylor Navas of Real Madrid in action during a training session at Valdebebas training ground on Frebuary 14, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 14: Keylor Navas of Real Madrid in action during a training session at Valdebebas training ground on Frebuary 14, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images) /

Current Form

Real Madrid are admittedly not in the best form of the season. With 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss in the last 5 games, they have actually missed two matches due to various variables. Gareth Bale is also probably not likely to even make the team sheet, so Real Madrid will have to do without him

Napoli are coming in on an 18 game unbeaten streak. They’re lethal up front and will be coming in hot after a 2-0 win vs Genoa.

Real Madrid Predicted Lineup

Zinedine Zidane has been experimenting with a 5-3-2 formation lately. I don’t see why he would move back to a 4-3-3 after pushing this formation the last few games. I’m going to say he keeps the 5-3-2 and goes for something like this:

Match Prediction

This one is gonna be hard to predict. I predict that Benzema will finally break his goal drought, with one goal and one assist. Napoli will score once, more than likely because Mertens finds a gap in the backline but Los Blancos will prevail at home in the first leg and win 2-1 today.

Predicted Final Score