Manchester City have enjoyed a superb start to the season in all competitions, but on Tuesday night at the Etihad they’ll face a true test against a great European team when Napoli come to Manchester for the third match of the Champions League group stage.
Napoli are a truly sensational attacking team that can score goals against anyone, and their style is simply beautiful to watch. Maurizio Sarri is a wonderful coach, and his ideas are very similar to those of Pep Guardiola. So it makes sense to expect a really, really, really great game.
It’s not just about coaches and philosophies, though. There’ll be some great players on the pitch, and we highlight four of them.
Dries Mertens has always been a tricky Belgian winger with nice skills and speed, but he was never able to reach his true potential as a player. Until Sarri arrived at Napoli, moved Mertens to a central position in the front three and turned him into a monster.
Do not let his size fool you: Mertens is a beast with the ball, able to dribble past anyone and shoot at goal from various angles and distances, and he’s a nightmare for any defender because he never stops moving. Mertens will no doubt cause problems for City, and don’t be shocked if gets a goal or two.
Kevin De Bruyne
After another unbelievable display on Saturday against Stoke City, De Bruyne proved that he’s quite possibly the best midfielder in the world. His ability to control the game is second to none, and his assist to Leroy Sané will be in my memory for a few weeks.
Like Mertens, De Bruyne seems to have reached his true potential thanks to a great coach who’s identified his strengths and put him in a position where he can affect the game in a multitude of ways. De Bruyne will have a very difficult job on Tuesday, with more defensive work than usual, so it’ll be a challenge for Kevin. We can be sure he’s up for it, though.
As good as Dries Mertens is, the City defense cannot focus only on him. If they do that, Insigne will have a lot of fun destroying the Blues. Insigne is the most skilled player in the Napoli squad, and he combines his dribbling with insane pace and finishing ability.
Kyle Walker will be tasked with defending Insigne most of the time, and the City full-back will need to be at the peak of his powers to control Insigne. If the Napoli winger is able to beat Walker a few times, then it’ll be a nightmare for the City defense.
After making a mistake with Claudio Bravo, Guardiola made a perfect purchase in Éderson. The Brazilian international has been amazing since joining the club, and is firmly established as the first choice keeper. He’s a great shot-stopper, which is the primary job of a goalkeeper, but his distribution is simply incredible and the best part of his game.
Éderson’s passing ability will be crucial especially against Napoli, who are known for pressing high up the pitch and trying to take the ball from defenders. The City goalkeeper will be required to be active with the ball at his feet multiple times, and it’ll be his job to create attacks with his passing. If he’s up to his usual standards, City won’t have much trouble with Napoli’s pressing, and Éderson can also stop shots to keep a clean sheet.