In the only round of 32 tie featuring two teams that played UEFA Champions League football during the autumn, European debutants Leipzig appear to have a decisive edge over Napoli after claiming an impressive 3-1 away win in southern Italy.
• 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 taking part in the competition for the first time; this is their first knockout tie in UEFA competition.
• A Napoli side missing several first-choice players took the lead at the Stadio San Paolo with a 52nd-minute strike from midfielder Adam Ounas but Leipzig stormed back to score three goals in the final half-hour, a double from Timo Werner sandwiching a first European goal for Bruma.
• Napoli had never won away to German opposition in eight matches (D3 L5), losing four in a row until their most recent engagement, when they overcame Wolfsburg 4-1 in the first leg of the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League quarter-final to set up a 6-3 aggregate triumph.
• The only other season in which the Partenopei travelled to Germany and avoided defeat was their 1988/89 UEFA Cup-winning campaign, when they played three matches and drew all of them – against East German side Lokomotive Leipzig (1-1), Bayern München (2-2) and, in the second leg of the final, Stuttgart (3-3).
• Leipzig have an even balance of one win, one draw and one defeat in European home fixtures and are yet to keep a clean sheet in front of their own fans, conceding five goals in those three fixtures.
• Napoli have lost four of their last five away encounters in Europe, including 2-1 defeats in all three of their UEFA Champions League group games this season. Furthermore, they have won just twice on the road in nine UEFA Europa League knockout ties (D2 L5).
• Three of Napoli’s five previous UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties have resulted in elimination, and in each case they lost the away leg, against Villarreal twice (1-2 in 2010/11 and 0-1 in 2015/16) and Viktoria Plzeň (0-2) in 2012/13.
• Conversely, on the two occasions that the Serie A side have passed beyond the round of 32, they avoided defeat on the road, drawing 0-0 against Swansea in 2013/14 (before winning 3-1 on aggregate) and beating Trabzonspor 4-0 (5-0 on aggregate) in 2014/15, when they progressed all the way to the semi-finals.
• 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.
• 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.
• Napoli have lost all five European ties in which they have been defeated at home in the first leg, most recently in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League round of 32, when Plzeň supplemented a 3-0 victory in Italy with a 2-0 win in the Czech Republic.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Fabio Coltorti, Philipp Köhn
Out: Marvin Compper, Marcel Halstenberg, Nicolas Kühn
In: Zinédine Machach, Lorenzo Tonelli
Out: Emanuele Giaccherini, Nikola Maksimović
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• Leipzig have yet to feature in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.
• Napoli’s record in UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L2:
3-4 v Toulouse, 1986/87 UEFA Cup first round
4-3 v Sporting CP, 1989/90 UEFA Cup first round
3-5 v Spartak Moskva, 1990/91 European Champion Clubs’ Cup second round
• 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.
• 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.
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Source: Europa League