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Manchester City vs Napoli – a preview
For Roberto Mancini the 2010/11 season was very much mission accomplished.
At the outset of the campaign the considered view was that the Italian had to improve upon the fifth-place finish from the previous season in order to deliver Champions League football, which, with the onset of the Financial Fair Play regulations, fast became a necessity. So much so that even after lifting the FA Cup, should a top four finish have proved beyond his side it was likely that a new man would have been installed in the manager’s chair at The Etihad Stadium.
In order to get his side into Europe’s glamour tournament, Mancini had been tremendously stoic and single-minded in his approach. Shrugging off accusations of defensive systems and a lack of ingenuity and creativity, he was happy to ride the best defensive record in the Premier League along with the inspiration provided by Carlos Tevez and David Silva all the way into the tournament.
Having done so, and perhaps aware that the increased expectation levels surrounding City, Mancini has upped the ante. He talked off his side needing an additional 10-15 goals from last season to genuinely compete for the title, and duly added Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri to provide as potent an attacking offering as there is, this side of Barcelona.
But having got a seat at Europe’s top table the stakes have been raised. It is one thing to do it against Swansea or Wigan for example, but when the Continents elite come knocking there will surely be a temptation to add a degree of caution – especially when faced with the attacking threat of the sides elsewhere in Group A.
It is interesting therefore that City debut in the competition against fellow first-timers Napoli. The Italian side have not featured at this level since the days of Diego Maradona and they achieved a third-place finish in Serie A last season principally on the back of the contributions from Lavezzi, Hamsik and Cavani, the latter who produced a stunning debut season for the Partenopoi and a trio who may very much rival City’s own of Silva, Nasri and Aguero.
Napoli’s talented trio
The danger as far as a spectacle is concerned is that both teams look to cancel each other out, particularly given the huge advantage victory in the opening round games will provide. In a Group as tricky as the one City find themselves in it is paramount that home form will be key. Drawn to face Bayern Munich, Villareal and Napoli, there are no easy points on offer and realistically each of the sides is capable of taking points off one another. Ten points is generally considered to be the benchmark total for progression to the knock-out stages so an ideal scenario would see a return of seven points (and denying your opponents a valuable win in the process) to provide a cushion for games on the road.
With that in mind, can Mancini afford to not continue with the approach that has seen him profit to such a degree during the opening stages of this season?
By Danny Pugsley – bitterandblue.com
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