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Napoli v Wolfsburg: Benaglio eyes return to form

Wolfsburg must break new ground against Napoli on Thursday if they are to reach the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.

A 4-1 defeat in last week’s last-eight first leg was the Bundesliga club’s heaviest loss in their continental history, and no side has ever progressed in a European tie after losing the home leg by more than two goals.

Dieter Hecking’s men have enjoyed superb season overall, firmly establishing themselves as Bayern Munich’s closest challengers in the Bundesliga while losing just seven times across all competitions in 2014-15.

Wolfsburg failed to bounce straight back from their humbling at the hands of Napoli by being held to a 1-1 draw by Schalke at home on Sunday, but goalkeeper Diego Benaglio feels they can prove that last Thursday’s result was a blip at Stadio San Paolo.

“We want to prove on the European stage that what happened in the first leg was merely a negative dip in form, as far as our performance was concerned – albeit at the worst possible time in an extremely important game,” he said.

While Wolfsburg – who will hope Kevin De Bruyne recovers from a bruised foot – have hit a relative mini-slump in the last week or so, Napoli have appeared revitalised since going five games without a win.

Rafael Benitez’s side have scored 10 goals in winning their last three, with Sunday’s 3-0 Serie A victory at Cagliari providing the best possible preparation for Wolfsburg’s visit.

Benitez, meanwhile, is looking to become only the second man to lift the Europa League/UEFA Cup three times after legendary Italian boss Giovanni Trapattoni, with the Spaniard having won the trophy in 2004 with Valencia and 2013 with Chelsea.

Napoli have won European club football’s secondary competition once before – in 1989, when they were inspired by Diego Maradona.

And Benitez will hope one of Maradona’s Argentine countrymen Gonzalo Higuian can continue his fine record in this season’s Europa League.

The former Real Madrid striker netted the opener at the Volkswagen Arena last week to take his tally to seven goals in 11 appearances in the tournament this term.


Tue 21 Apr, 2015
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