Napoli v Chelsea preview
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By Peter Fraser - Follow me on twitter @SkySportsPeteF. Last Updated: February 22, 2012 7:34am
Chelsea step into the lion's den on Tuesday night and Andre Villas-Boas has been portrayed as the condemned man.
The Stamford Bridge club take on Napoli at the fiercely intimidating Stadio San Paolo in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League knowing the first leg is of critical importance.
Speculation has suggested Villas-Boas could be sacked if Chelsea are ultimately knocked out of Europe in the wake of a domestic winless run.
The Portuguese 34-year-old has come under severe scrutiny amid a disappointing season, but he was full of steely determination on Monday evening.
At his pre-Napoli press conference in the bowels of Napoli's stadium, Villas-Boas gave an excellent, fighting speech and insisted he enjoys the full support of Chelsea's board.
The manager did imply it would be good to hear public backing from Roman Abramovich, and it remains to be seen if the tinkering club owner acts, but he is clearly confident.
Whether Chelsea, who will again be without John Terry, can match the focus of Villas-Boas on the field remains to be seen against a dangerous Napoli side.
Walter Mazzarri's team may be sitting sixth in Serie A, but they have been this season's surprise package in the Champions League and finished above Manchester City in Group A.
City failed to win at the Etihad Stadium before losing in Italy after finding out about the threat of Napoli's star trio of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik.
Napoli will be hampered by the absence from their dugout of Mazzarri, who begins a two-match touchline ban, but they will still prove a major threat to Chelsea.
Since returning to continental competition after 13 years in 2008, Napoli have gone 11 home matches unbeaten.
The last foreign outfit to prevail in Naples were Eintracht Frankfurt in December 1994.
Terry will not feature and his hoped-for return from three weeks out has been shelved with the news he requires surgery on his injured knee.
Villas-Boas is more optimistic about Ashley Cole recovering from a calf problem, while Didier Drogba looks set to start in attack in place of Fernando Torres.
Ramires and John Obi Mikel returned to action as starters against Birmingham in Saturday's disappointing FA Cup draw with Birmingham.
Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis missed Friday's 3-0 win over Fiorentina due to a slight knock suffered in training, but he is expected to start against Chelsea.
Hugo Campagnaro has been included in Napoli's 19-man squad, despite being forced off with a calf injury against Fiorentina.
Midfielder Eduardo Vargas is out with a twisted ankle.
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UEFA Champions League Group A
|1||Paris St Germain||6||15|
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
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UEFA Champions League Group D
UEFA Champions League Group E
UEFA Champions League Group F
UEFA Champions League Group G
UEFA Champions League Group H
napoli v chelsea
Branislav Ivanovic admits the Chelsea squad must unite behind under-fire boss Andre Villas-Boas and help to snap the club out of their current slump.
Chelsea will hope Juan Mata can play through the pain after sustaining a suspected broken finger in the 3-1 defeat by Napoli.
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill will not look back fondly on his UEFA Champions League debut.
- 'Chelsea too fragile'
- Villas-Boas - I'm the boss
- Mata - Blues not dead
- Cech - We need to help AVB
- Villas-Boas remains defiant
- Kamikaze Chelsea pay price
- Cavani eyes Blues scalp
- Chelsea would report racism
- AVB hopes board speak up
- AVB assured of Chelsea future
- Drogba - I didn't give team talk
- Cech wants to fly the flag
- Hamsik serving up Euro treat
- Blues waiting on skipper
- Mazzarri - We're not favourites