After adding nine points in the first four matches of Champions League, the 3-1 defeat suffered against Borussia Dortmund last night has considerably decreased Napoli‘s chances to qualify to the next round of the competition. With one more game to play in the group stage, the Partenopei not only are forced to beat Arsenal – as challenging as it is – but also have to hope for Olympique de Marseille to get at least one point against Dortmund, which seems highly unlikely as the French club has lost every single game so far and doesn’t represent a major challenge for the German side.
Unfortunately for manager Rafael Benitez, Napoli paid the consequences of not having a good coefficient in the UEFA Rankings, which every year determines the specific pots for every team in the competition draws. Due to the poor history of the club in European competitions, Napoli found itself in the so-called group of death with two of the best teams in Europe, such as Dortmund and Arsenal, whose experience in the tournament is unreachable.
Certainly, being able to qualify in a group like this doesn’t only depend on the team itself. As a matter of fact, besides having to work hard in order to get as many points as possible, the team also needs to hope for a bad years of the strong opponents, just like it happened two years ago when Napoli qualified to the next round in the place of Manchester City.
Two seasons ago, however, even though the Italian side did qualify from the group of death — which was also composed by Bayern Munich and Villarreal — the misfortune came in the round of 16 against Chelsea. After winning 3-1 in the first leg, Napoli had to submit to a renewed Chelsea in the second one as the Blues had just changed their manager and found their winning identity again. The Partneopei said goodbye to the Champions League after the 4-1 defeat suffered at Stanford Bridge.
Napoli’s achievements of the last years are only a result of the good work performed not only by the president Aurelio De Laurentis, but also by the coaching staff and players. Without a doubt being eliminated by Arsenal and Dortmund is definitely not a failure, especially after collecting nine points in five matches. The hope for Napoli is to find the necessary consistency in Serie A in order to ensure the Champions League qualification for next year.
Sadly for the fans, however, chances are that next year Napoli will end up in an extremely challenging group again, considering that the this year’s elimination will prevent the club to add points in the UEFA Rankings making the whole process an authentic vicious cycle.