Napoli: Serie A leaders, €10m star Rangers need to be wary of and attacking evolution

It doesn't get much easier for Rangers in the Champions League as they welcome Napoli to Ibrox this week for their second group stage encounter.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men were swept aside by Eredivisie champions Ajax in Amsterdam last week. Now they face the team leading Serie A who themselves handed out a shellacking of their own as they defeated Liverpool 4-1. Former England, Real Madrid and AC Milan boss Fabio Capello said it should have been 7-2.

The build-up to the match has been impacted by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

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UEFA confirmed on Sunday the fixture would be pushed back 24 hours, from Tuesday to Wednesday, “due to severe limitations on police resources and organisational issues related to the ongoing events surrounding the national mourning.”

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Looking at on-field matters, Rangers are in for a very testing 90 minutes.

Manager

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Taking over from former Rangers midfielder Gennaro Gattusso in May 2021, Luciano Spalletti guided Napoli back into the Champions League. However, last season promised so much as they challenged for the Scudetto before falling away. A disappointing end to the season saw some fans display a banner at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium notifying Spalletti that he would get his stolen Fiat Panda back if he left the club.

So far this season, supporters will be glad he didn't give up his job for his car. Despite a recent accident which left him with a broken collar bone and on crutches for the Liverpool game, he only missed one training session as the team continue to motor along, their latest success a 1-0 win over Spezia in the league,

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Napoli celebrate after beating Liverpool 4-1 in their Champions League opener. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

Tactics and style

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The early signs are that Napoli have evolved from last season. They still play a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 system but they now appear to have more strings to their bow. Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, Fabian Ruiz and Kalidou Koulibaly were some of the key players to depart but the additions of André Zambo Anguissa, Giacomo Raspadori and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have given the team an extra dimension.

As well as being able to dominate the ball and break teams down with creative qualities from central areas, they are now even better on the transition, quick and more powerful, possessing a real threat on the flanks.

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They are top in Serie A for shots, dribbles, passes to the final third and touches in the penalty box per 90 minutes. And top five in the league for crosses, smart passes and key passes. An increase on all metrics from last season.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has been hugely impressive for the Italians. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
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Key players

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Known as ‘Kvara’ by Napoli fans, for now. Slowly but surely it is turning into ‘Kvaradona’. If you were looking for one player who epitomises the change to Napoli this season, to make them a more exciting proposition, the Georgian winger is it.

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James Tavernier could be in for a long evening on Wednesday. He ran rings around Liverpool duo Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez to the point the latter had to be replaced. A bargain €10million summer signing, he is a nightmare to play against. Quick and strong, he averages more than eight dribbles per 90 minutes in the league. He can go down either side and is more than capable of producing stunning goals.

Likely line-up

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Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Kim, Olivera; Lobotka, Anguissa, Zielinksi; Poltano, Simeone, Kvaratskhelia .

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