Napoli v Leipzig background
In the only UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie featuring two teams that played UEFA Champions League football during the autumn, former UEFA Cup winners Napoli take on European debutants Leipzig.
• The Italian side, who finished third in their UEFA Champions League group behind Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk, are competing in the UEFA Europa League’s round of 32 for the sixth time in eight seasons. Their German opponents, denied further progress in the UEFA Champions League by Beşiktaş and Porto, are setting foot in the competition for the first time.
• The clubs have never met, and Leipzig are yet to encounter opposition from Italy.
• Napoli have won four and lost three of their nine European home games against German opposition. Three of those four victories contributed to the club’s 1988/89 UEFA Cup triumph. East German side Lokomotive Leipzig (no relation to RB Leipzig) were defeated 2-0 in Naples in the second round before semi-final and final wins over Bayern München (2-0) and Stuttgart (2-1) respectively.
• The Partenopei’s only success in five home fixtures against Bundesliga opposition since then came against Borussia Dortmund (2-1) in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Napoli have won three of their four home fixtures in Europe this season. They are unbeaten in the UEFA Europa League on home turf in 13 matches (W9 D4) since losing 3-0 against Viktoria Plzeň in the 2012/13 round of 32.
• Three of Napoli’s five previous UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties have resulted in elimination, and in every case they failed to win their home leg, draws against Villarreal in both 2010/11 and 2015/16 proving as costly, as that heavy defeat at home to Plzeň.
• Conversely, on each of the two occasions that the Serie A side have passed beyond the round of 32, they won their home leg – 3-1 against Swansea (also 3-1 on aggregate) in 2013/14 and 1-0 against Trabzonspor (5-0 on aggregate) in 2014/15, when they progressed all the way to the semi-finals.
• Leipzig lost at both Beşiktaş (0-2) and Porto (1-3) in their UEFA Champions League group before picking up their first European away win on matchday five with a 4-1 triumph at last season’s semi-finalists Monaco.
• Third in Serie A last term, Napoli qualified for this season’s UEFA Champions League play-offs, where they disposed of Nice 4-0 on aggregate, winning both legs 2-0.
• Leipzig gained automatic entry into the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League after finishing runners-up to Bundesliga champions Bayern at the end of their debut season in Germany’s top flight. They are the only club ever to have played their first European match in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Links and trivia
• Leipzig goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi was at Liverpool when Napoli’s Pepe Reina was the Reds’ first choice between the posts in 2008/09; Gulácsi spent the second half of that campaign on loan at Hereford United.
• Reina played three games in the Bundesliga with Bayern in 2014/15.
• Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik played six Bundesliga games (all as a substitute) with Bayer Leverkusen in 2012/13 and 18 games (scoring two goals) on loan at Augsburg the following season.
• Leipzig schemer Emil Forsberg played 90 minutes in both games as Sweden eliminated Italy from the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the qualifying play-offs. He faced substitute Lorenzo Insigne in the 1-0 win in Sweden and Jorginho in the 0-0 draw in Milan.
• No German or Italian club has ever reached a UEFA Europa League final. Napoli are one of three Serie A sides to have made the semi-finals (with Juventus and Fiorentina), while no Bundesliga club has reached the last four since Hamburg in the competition’s inaugural 2009/10 season.
• Napoli are one of four clubs from Italy in the round of 32 – the same number as Russia and Spain. There were five Italian clubs present at this juncture in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League – a competition record.
• Napoli boss since 2015, when he replaced Rafael Benítez, Maurizio Sarri is widely considered to be one of Europe’s most progressive coaches. He paid his dues in Italy’s lower leagues with a multitude of clubs before getting his big break at Empoli, whom he steered into Serie A. His first two seasons in Naples have brought top-three finishes.
• Former Austrian international striker Ralph Hasenhüttl was appointed as RB Leipzig coach following their promotion to the Bundesliga in 2016, and he hit the ground running, remaining unbeaten in his first 13 league games en route to guiding the club to a runners-up spot in their debut top-flight campaign. His previous coaching posts have all been in Germany – at Unterhaching, Aalen and Ingolstadt.