Napoli v Arsenal background
Arsenal arrive in southern Italy armed with a 2-0 first-leg lead as they bid to eliminate Napoli and reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League for the second season in succession. Their hosts will again need to call on a strong run of European home form this season as they look to emulate their UEFA Cup triumph of 30 years ago.
• Napoli were the best third-placed team in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, finishing with nine points, but their only defeat, 0-1 at Liverpool on matchday six, enabled the Merseysiders to leapfrog them into second place on goals scored and qualify alongside group winners Paris Saint-Germain. The Partenopei kicked off their UEFA Europa League campaign with a comfortable 5-1 aggregate win against Zürich before edging out Salzburg 4-3 over two legs in the round of 16.
• Arsenal cruised through to the knockout phase from Group E, dropping just two points as they qualified with two games to spare, but they had a scare in both the round of 32 and round of 16, claiming 3-0 second-leg home wins to eliminate BATE Borisov and Rennes after they had lost both first legs.
• The Gunners were fast out of the traps in the first leg, Aaron Ramsey finishing a delightful move to put the home team ahead on 14 minutes before an own goal from Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly – who deflected in Lucas Torreira’s shot – doubled their lead.
• The clubs have been paired together just once before, in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage, when both also registered 2-0 home wins. Napoli’s matchday six success proved insufficient to take them through to the round of 16 despite a final tally of 12 points – the highest total of any side not to progress from their section in UEFA Champions League history.
• Napoli have won five of their seven home fixtures against Premier League opposition (D1 L1), including 1-0 against Liverpool in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage thanks to Lorenzo Insigne’s 90th-minute strike. They overcame Swansea City 3-1 in Naples to win their 2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie by the same aggregate score, but their only other two-legged tie against Premier League opposition ended in defeat after extra time against Chelsea in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League round of 16 (3-1 home, 1-4 away).
• Arsenal have won as many games as they have lost in Italy – six apiece, with four draws. Indeed, they have won five of their last nine matches there, most recently 2-0 at AC Milan last season en route to a 5-1 aggregate UEFA Europa League round of 16 triumph. Furthermore, two of the three defeats during that time – both in the UEFA Champions League – were not damaging as the Gunners beat Roma on penalties in the 2008/09 round of 16 and lost against Napoli by a sufficient margin on matchday six in 2013/14 to proceed to the knockout phase at their hosts’ expense.
• The Gunners have won both of their previous European quarter-finals against Serie A opposition without conceding a goal – 1-0 on aggregate against Torino (0-0 away, 1-0 home) en route to their 1993/94 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup triumph, when they defeated another Italian club, Parma, 1-0 in the Copenhagen final, and 2-0 on aggregate against Juventus in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League (2-0 home, 0-0 away).
• Serie A runners-up in 2017/18, Napoli qualified for the UEFA Champions League group stage for the fifth time – all in the last eight seasons.
• This is the second successive season that they have finished third in their UEFA Champions League section and therefore crossed over to the UEFA Europa League. Last term they were defeated in the round of 32 by Leipzig, losing to the European debutants on away goals (1-3 home, 2-0 away), but they came through that stage this season, beating Zürich 3-1 in Switzerland and 2-0 in southern Italy. Against Salzburg in the round of 16 they won the first leg 3-0 at home and opened the scoring away in a second leg that ended 3-1 in favour of the Austrian champions.
• Like Arsenal, this is Napoli’s second appearance in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. They won their previous tie 6-3 on aggregate, after a first-leg 4-1 win (away) and a second-leg 2-2 draw (home) against Wolfsburg in 2014/15.
• UEFA Cup winners in 1989, Napoli are unbeaten at home in Europe this term (W4 D1), scoring ten goals and conceding two. Their record at the Stadio San Paolo in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W5 D5 L2.
• Napoli have won only three of the 12 UEFA competition ties in which they have lost the first leg away, suffering elimination on the last four occasions, most recently against Real Madrid in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League round of 16 (1-3 away, 1-3 home). Two of those three victories, however, have followed 0-2 defeats, the second of them against Juventus (3-0 home) in the quarter-final of the 1988/89 UEFA Cup, which Napoli went on to win.
• The Gunners finished sixth in the 2017/18 Premier League – their lowest final placing under Arsène Wenger in his swansong season as manager after 22 years. It earned them a second successive qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 successive seasons until last term, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt, going out to eventual winners Atlético Madrid. This season they breezed through their group, an opening 4-2 win at home to Vorskla Poltava preceding four wins and a draw in which they conceded no further goals.
• That competition record-equalling run of five clean sheets ended at BATE, where they lost 1-0 before recovering to win 3-0 at home. It was a similar comeback tale against Rennes in the round of 16, a 3-1 defeat in France preceding another 3-0 home victory, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring twice – his first goals in the competition since matchday one.
• Arsenal’s one previous UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie came last season against CSKA Moskva, Wenger’s side progressing 6-3 on aggregate after winning the first leg 4-1 at home thanks to two goals apiece from Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette. It was the Gunners’ first appearance in a European quarter-final since the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League, when they were beaten 6-3 on aggregate by Barcelona (2-2 home, 1-4 away).
• The 1999/2000 UEFA Cup runners-up won all three away fixtures in this season’s group stage before losing at BATE and Rennes. Their overall away record in two UEFA Europa League campaigns is now W7 D1 L4, with 20 goals scored and ten conceded, but they have failed to win any of their last four knockout phase fixtures outside London (D1 L3), the last such victory being that 2-0 success at Milan in last season’s round of 16.
• Arsenal have won the first leg at home in 18 UEFA competition ties and have made further progress on 16 of those occasions, including in all four knockout rounds en route to the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup final (against Nantes, Deportivo La Coruña, Werder Bremen and Lens). The only two times that they failed to qualify following first-leg victories in north London came after 2-1 scorelines. The most recent of their three successful ties following a 2-0 first-leg home win was that 2005/06 UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Juventus.
Links and trivia
• Goalkeeper David Ospina is on loan to Napoli from Arsenal, the club he joined in 2014. He was an unused substitute in the first leg.
• Two other Napoli players have operated in England – Vlad Chiricheş for Arsenal’s local rivals Tottenham (2013–15) and Orestis Karnezis for Watford (2017/18).
• Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti was in charge of Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea between 2009 and 2011, winning the Premier League title and FA Cup in 2010. Ancelotti coached Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Čech at Chelsea and was the Real Madrid boss when the Spanish club sold Mesut Özil to Arsenal in September 2013.
• Chelsea’s record against Arsenal during Ancelotti’s spell in London was W3 L1. He also faced the Gunners in the UEFA Champions League with AC Milan, losing 2-0 on aggregate in the 2007/08 round of 16, before a comprehensive 10-2 aggregate triumph at the same stage of the competition as Bayern München’s coach in 2016/17.
• Four Arsenal players have Serie A experience: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Lazio 2008–11, Juventus 2011–18), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Genoa 2008–10, Milan 2010/11), Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria 2012–14) and Torreira (Pescara 2014–16, Sampdoria 2016–18).
• Aubameyang was in Milan’s youth side between 2007 and 2009 when Ancelotti was the first-team coach.
• Ramsey has signed a contract to join Juventus next season.
• Have played together at club level:
Amin Younes & Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach 2012–14)
Arkadiusz Milik & Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen 2012/13)
Faouzi Ghoulam & Aubameyang (Saint-Étienne 2011–13)
• International team-mates:
Karnezis & Papastathopoulos (Greece)
Younes & Mustafi, Leno, Özil (Germany)
Raúl Albiol, José Callejón & Nacho Monreal, Héctor Bellerin (Spain)
• Arsenal are the only surviving team from last season’s UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.
• The Gunners have used 30 players in this season’s UEFA Europa League proper – more than any other club.
• Napoli lifted the UEFA Cup in 1988/89 and are one of four former winners of the trophy in this season’s quarter-finals, along with Chelsea, Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt.
• This is Napoli’s 50th match in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. They are the 12th club to reach that landmark.
• Napoli’s record in three 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
• Arsenal’s record in four UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L2:
4-5 v Valencia, 1979/80 European Cup Winners’ Cup final
3-2 v Sampdoria, 1994/95 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final
1-4 v Galatasaray, 1999/2000 UEFA Cup final
7-6 v Roma, 2008/09 UEFA Champions League round of 16
• One of the most distinguished and successful coaches in contemporary European football, former Italian international midfielder Carlo Ancelotti has an enviable CV, having managed several of the continent’s top clubs and won a stack of trophies, including the UEFA Champions League on three occasions and league titles in Italy, England, France and Germany. He was appointed by Napoli in May 2018, the Partenopei becoming the record eighth club he has coached in the UEFA Champions League – after Parma, Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern München.
• After two years with Paris Saint-Germain that yielded seven domestic trophies, Unai Emery was appointed as Arsenal manager in May 2018, replacing the long-serving Wenger. The Spaniard oversaw Sevilla’s historic hat-trick of successes in the UEFA Europa League from 2013/14 to 2015/16, having assumed control following a four-year tenure at Valencia and a brief stint at Spartak Moskva. He has been in charge of more UEFA Europa League games than any other coach, this being his 71st.