It's N-Day for Andre Villas-Boas and his boys in blue... Napoli Day, that is.
Never mind that Chelsea have not won in five games (across all competitions)... never mind that the club's senior players (and possibly the owner too) have all seemingly lost confidence in their manager... never mind even that theirs is a squad in dire need of pruning and re-building. This is a match they cannot afford to lose.
The London club will travel to the idyllic seaside town of Naples fervently hoping they are able to recapture some degree of form and, perhaps, more importantly, pride, following one of the toughest few weeks in quite some time. They will hope also to do well enough in this first leg of the Round of 16 Champions League match against Napoli to allow their manager to retain his job. The big question is... do they want to?
Chelsea will go into the match, almost certainly, with the misfiring Fernando Torres on the bench and the physically dominant Didier Drogba upfront. Meanwhile, the bad news (more?) for Chelsea is that captain and key central defender John Terry will likely miss out. However, this should allow January signing Gary Cahill a rare start and the chance to perhaps cement his place ahead of the club legend. The only other likely absentee is left back Ashley Cole and AVB will be delighted to welcome back Lampard, Essien and Ramires, all of whom are likely to start. Up front, the triple axis of Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge and Drogba will look to provide the offensive threat.
Napoli, unfortunately for the English club, have very few injury worries. Indeed, manager Walter Mazzari will be able to field his three most high-profile players - Marek Hamsik, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi - all of whom have enough pace and skill to more than worry the Chelsea backline.
- Napoli - De Sanctis; Aronica, Campagnaro, Cannavaro; Maggio, Inler, Gargano, Dossena; Hamsik, Lavezzi; Cavani
- Chelsea - Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bosingwa; Essien, Meireles, Lampard; Mata, Drogba, Sturridge