Date: August 27, 2014
Venue: San Mames Stadium, Bilbao, Biscay, Spain
Kick-off time: 19:45 BST
Napoli will travel to Spain on Wednesday to take on Athletic Bilbao as both teams look to seal a coveted spot in the group stages of the Champions League this season.
The contest is tied at 1-1 after the first leg with Athletic Club getting a crucial own goal at Italy last week. The match is expected to be an extremely hard-fought game as both teams will be looking forward to feature in Europe’s premier club competition.
Athletic Bilbao’s form
Athletic club’s form coming into the new season does not inspire much confidence. They had drawn 2-2 at Werder Bremen in Germany before getting the draw against Napoli in the first leg. The opening weekend of the La Liga saw Bilbao lose to Malaga on the road.
However, Athletic did not play their best team at the weekend with one eye on the upcoming fixture against Napoli. If they do manage to go through, it will be an immense achievement for a side who only play with Basque players.
Napoli’s preparations to the season have been rather nice. They beat PAOK in their first friendly and followed it up with a win over Barcelona, who were playing a rather weakened team.
Rafael Benitez’s side lost 2-1 to Paris Saint Germain in their last pre-season friendly before they managed a draw in the first leg of their champions league qualifier against Athletic club.
Athletic Bilbao: Iker Muniain
Muniain has been on the radar of some of the biggest clubs in the game for the past few years. Initially, he had made his name as a teenage winger who specialized in dribbling in from the left at pace. Over the last couple of years though, Muniain has added more goals to his game which makes him a menace for all defences.
Napoli: Gonzalo Higuain
Higuain was the first choice for Argentina at the world cup ahead of Sergio Aguero. Although his glaring miss in the final match against Germany cost his team, Higuain is a class act and has been one of the better players in the champions league in the past few seasons. The former Real Madrid striker will pose a lot of problems to the opposition defenders and is likely to score.
This is going to be an extremely close match-up given what happened in the first leg. Athletic will have home support, but in these crunch games, it counts for lesser than normal.
Napoli, meanwhile, have a coach who did great things in the past and is a master tactician. The Italian side also have a better quality of players who should help them through to the group stages if they perform to their potential.
This one looks set to be another low scoring encounter and I recommend backing both Napoli to win 1-0 (11.0 with BetVictor) and Bilbao to win 1-0 (7.5 with bet365) in this one.