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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Napoli may struggle to stop rampant Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates could punish Napoli
1 of 1

Champions League
Last-16 second leg

BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Tuesday

Real Madrid showed composure and quality by coming from behind to defeat Napoli 3-1 in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie and can finish the job with a victory at the Stadio San Paolo.

A red-hot atmosphere awaits the Real players at one of the most intimidating venues in top-level European football and they will be up against very capable opponents.

Napoli are third in Serie A and look well set for a second successive Champions League qualification after Saturday's vital 2-1 win at second-placed Roma.

They got off to a great start at the Bernabeu with Lorenzo Insigne applying a calm finish to a defence-splitting through-ball from classy Slovakian Marek Hamsik.

But they retreated into their shell as the game progressed and could have no complaints about the final score.

Napoli head coach Maurizio Sarri will urge his players to be positive for the full 90 minutes of the return match but his team are in an awkward position against opponents with arguably the best counter-attacking skills on the continent.

Gareth Bale was not quite ready for the first leg but has returned from a three-month layoff in good touch, scoring twice in four appearances.

But the bigger worry for Napoli is Cristiano Ronaldo, who seems to have raised his game since Bale's return and will be determined to end a 523-minute Champions League goal drought – his longest in eight seasons with Los Blancos.

The Portuguese has netted four goals in his last three matches and was influential in a wide position in the first leg, setting up a host of chances, including Toni Kroos's 49th-minute goal which put Real ahead in the tie for the first time.

Karim Benzema – the third member of Real's three-pronged attack – is also playing well and scored twice in Saturday's 4-1 win at Eibar.

Keeping that trio at bay looks a really tough task and if the away goal does arrive it is likely to signal the end of Napoli's hopes.

Napoli are capable of causing Madrid problems too. They play with intelligence and good movement but have lacked a prolific striker since Arkadiusz Milik sustained a cruciate knee ligament injury in October last year.

The Pole joined from Ajax last summer and scored seven goals in his first eight games for the Partenopei.

However, he has made just five appearances since returning from a four-month layoff (four from the bench) and is yet to get back on the scoresheet.

Sarri is likely to risk the 23-year-old at some stage but far more than a half-fit Milik will be needed to stop Real from marching into the quarter-finals for the seventh successive season.

Real Madrid
1pt 29-20 bet365

Team news
Allan (thigh) was an unused substitute for Saturday's 2-1 win at Roma and is pushing to be involved. Arkadiusz Milik is getting back to full fitness after a serious knee injury but is most likely to start on the bench.

Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo is fit after a knock forced him out of Saturday's victory against Eibar. No fresh injuries have been reported but Raphael Varane is still sidelined and is not part of the 22-man squad. 

Key stat
Real Madrid have scored in their last 20 away games

Gareth Bale was not quite ready for the first leg but has returned from a three-month layoff in good touch, scoring twice in four appearances
E.W. Terms
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