Napoli v. Red Star Belgrade (Group C)
Champions League Group C
Group C is one of the few groups that is completely up for grabs, with only 2 points separating the top and bottom teams. With this small of separation, it’s possible that goal difference could become completely irrelevant depending on how the games shake out. This post will cover one of the match ups from this group that will either make the group even more convoluted — or add some clarity. FiveThirtyEight’s Champions League predictions indicate the how wide open this group is, they give Napoli a 29% and Red Star Belgrade a <1% chance of winning the group. The lone match where 1st-place v. 4th-place has some legitimate impacts on team standings (the only other one was group F which was played yesterday).
Napoli play hosts to Red Star Belgrade at the Stadio San Paolo. Despite being on top of the Group C table, Napoli has done it in a very unconventional way. They actually have the worst home form in the group (albeit only by goal differential) and surprisingly they have the best away form having taken 6 points from 2 games and not conceding a single goal. They face a red-hot Red Star team that just beat Liverpool 2-0, but they really can’t afford to let nerves get the best of them — the group is just too tight. Given the way the group has unfolded the only way they can win the group for sure is to take the full 6 points in the remaining games.
Napoli has a hold of second in the Serie A. There’s a decent gap between themselves (and Inter) and Juventus. Napoli has been good at home and away from home. They’ve averaged 2 goals scored per game and 1 goal conceded over the 13 games played. Napoli’s form at home has been slightly better by scoring about 0.5 goals/game more and conceding the same amount less
In the Champions League, Napoli has managed 3 draws and a win to go with a +1 goal differential. At home during Champions League play they are averaging 1 goal a game and concede half a goal. Away from home they have averaged 1 goal scored and 1 allowed. Napoli hasn’t been a prolific goal scoring side by any means but they have been very tidy. They’ve managed to keep themselves in every game by not giving up anything easily.
Red Star Belgrade
Red Star Belgrade has put on one of the shockers of the tournament so far with their 2-0 win over Liverpool. If the results fall right for Red Star, they could conceivably end today in 2nd-place (a win over Napoli, and Liverpool-PSG draw). They could be even on points with Liverpool in the scenario described above (2nd due to goal differential), or with a PSG win they would also move to second in the table, 1 point behind PSG. Today’s matchup will be played away at the Stadio San Paulo.
Red Star was already featured as one of our Small Clubs of the Week by merely reaching this point in the tournament. It has been one of their best hauls in a long time. They’ve been in scintillating form in the Serbian Super League having 15 wins and 2 draws of the 17 matches played. Across that time they’ve averaged over 2.5 goals per game and just under 0.6 goals conceded per match. Their away numbers are slightly beneath their home numbers, but only just (about 0.5 goals scored per game and about 0.2 goals conceded per game). Liverpool are probably in prime position to talk about the perils of playing this side at home (perhaps luckily for Napoli — they already played them at home to a 0-0 draw) in spite of the 4-0 Liverpool victory being turned into a 2-0 loss.
Red Star’s Champions League away form is atrocious, they’ve yielded 10 goals and scored one over 2 games. That equates to scoring 0.5 a goal per game, and shipping 5 per game. Probably not a great recipe for success. Their home form has been the opposite having pulled off the aforementioned victory over Liverpool and a draw against Napoli. Their home form averages 1 goal scored and 0 goals against per game. It seems ludicrous that their would be such a huge difference between home and away form, and I think eventually it will come around.
What to expect
Much like the other Group C game being played today, everyone will want to play for a win. The group is too tight to settle for a draw. I think the defensive prowess that Napoli has shown so far is likely to be the difference. I don’t think Red Star has given a great account of themselves on the road. However if Red Star can limit the damage I don’t think a draw is out of the question. And while I definitely think neither team wants to draw, I think it hurts Napoli more should it happen. I certainly wouldn’t want to go to Anfield and need points.
Frankly, there’s one final possibility I can see happening, Red Star going all out for the win. Red Star initially was featured here for succeeding where they hadn’t in so long. Really they have nothing to lose fudge now, even if they don’t advance they’ll get a big check. And maybe they will bet on themselves to surprise everyone at least once more.
Enjoy the game!