Tonight's Champions League clash between Napoli and Chelsea provides a number of intriguing individual battles at the Stadio San Paolo.
With John Terry expected to miss out through injury, the pressure will be on the Blues’ other defenders to step-up against a feared attacking threat.
At the other end, an away goal could hold the key to Andre Villas-Boas’ side eventually progressing, so the onus will be on a striker to win their own battle and make the difference in Naples…
Edinson Cavani v Gary Cahill
With John Terry a major doubt, January signing Gary Cahill will be charged with the unenviable task of stopping Edinson Cavani’s attacking threat.
Arguably the most dangerous of Napoli’s triple threat (Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi), Uruguayan hitman Cavani has been in sensational form this season, continuing where he left off after 26 Serie ‘A’ strikes last season.
With 16 goals in his last 18 matches, the 25-year-old will be hard to stop if at his best, but Cahill has been drafted in at Stamford Bridge specifically for the big occasions.
An England international, the former Bolton centre back appealed to the west London club because of his eligibility in this competition, and his first big chance will come tonight.
Paolo Cannavaro v Didier Drogba
‘AVB’ has a decision to make over which striker will get the nod in Italy, but wither Fernando Torres still failing to spark for the club, the nod will surely go to Didier Drogba.
The Ivorian veteran has enjoyed some great nights on the European stage with the Blues, but will need to be at his best against one of football’s most famous defensive names.
Paolo Cannavaro is the younger brother of Fabio, who captained Italy to the World Cup in 2006, and is gaining a big reputation with the Azzurri.
However, he’s by no means the finished article, and defence is definitely Napoli’s biggest weakness. Chelsea will need to capitalise tonight, one can presume.
Walter Mazzarri v Andre Villas-Boas
An area the Blues have a big advantage, with Mazzarri banished from the touchline for both legs of this last 16 clash for pushing Villarreal striker Nilmar.
Both managers are under huge pressure, with Napoli struggling to reach the top four in Italy after last season’s third place finish. They currently sit sixth.
Chelsea are in a similar predicament, with the knives sharpening on Andre Villas-Boas as he looks to maintain a dignified stance at the helm.
Winning the tactical battle against a side that only lost once in the group stage, away to Bayern Munich, would be a major coup for the former Porto boss.
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