Napoli were again on the end of a Real Madrid schooling on Champions League Group C Matchday 5, as the Partenopei fell to a 4-2 defeat. The loss in Madrid was somewhat of their own doing.
After Giovanni Simeone bundled the ball into the Real Madrid net, the Partneopei had to put a spell of pressure on the hosts. Instead, the opposite occurred, with Los Blancos scoring a minute later through Rodrygo Goes and taking the lead just 10 minutes later through a magnificent Jude Bellingham header.
Napoli flew out of the blocks in the second half, levelling through Andre Frank Zambo-Anguissa. Though once again, they did not capitalise as they would have hoped to as, after nullifying the hosts for 35 minutes, the Spanish giants scored twice in 10 minutes through 19-year-old Nico Paz and Joselu.
Napoli will anticipate progression through to the knockout stages of the Champions League as long as they do not succumb to a defeat worse than 2-1 against SC Braga. However, Wednesday evening shows that the Partenopei still have a distance to go before they are a top-level European side.
Napoli lucky to not concede more in the final 10 minutes
Walter Mazzarri‘s half-time team talk likely focused on the need to score first in the second half if Napoli were to earn a result at the Bernabeu. This was probably then followed by a point regarding if they score first, don’t then start soaking up pressure immediately.
The Partenopei fulfilled the first half of this. However, they spent the majority of the second half under pressure from Los Blancos – managing to only register 0.12 xG in the second 45 minutes. On the other hand, Real Madrid recorded 2.15 xG. Had it not been for Joselu being wasteful in the box, things could have been a lot worse.
Napoli presented several chances to their opponents, which they could and likely should have been punished for – which is a sign of worry for Mazzarri.
Napoli’s defensively weak without Rui or Olivera
Wednesday evening highlighted an issue that urgently needs an answer from Mazzarri. As Mario Rui is due to be absent for four weeks, and Matias Olivera will be out for four months, there is a need for a left-back. Wednesday showed that Juan Jesus was not the answer, and neither was trialling a 3-5-2 system.
For large parts of the game, Napoli were close to being overexposed at the back, with Real Madrid often finding gaps between the Partenopei’s defence and midfield. When the hosts broke through, they were often faced with a back three which, given Real Madrid‘s pace on the counterattack, nearly worked on several occasions, outside of the two chances they scored from, due to these situations.
The first goal that Napoli conceded can be directly linked to the lack of men behind the ball. The Neapolitan outfit were left in a three-on-three situation, given Napoli typically defend with four at the back, this didn’t look like a comfortable shape for the defenders, and Real Madrid capitalised.
Napoli have seen one of their hardest possible opponents
There is a somewhat positive point to the game, though. Napoli now have an understanding, if they did not already have one, of what an elite Champions League side looks like.
Real Madrid are one of the favourites to win the Champions League this year, and as such, Napoli has likely already faced their hardest challenge. Ignoring the fact they conceded seven across the two fixtures, they did manage to score four times against the European heavyweights.
So, under the impression that Napoli should improve as time goes on with Mazzarri, and given time to iron out early errors, they know they have likely already got an idea of the worst to come, so theoretically, it should only get better from here.