Real Madrid v Napoli preview: Cristiano Ronaldo fit, Gareth Bale left out for Champions League clash
Last Updated: 15/02/17 7:54pm
Cristiano Ronaldo has been passed fit but Gareth Bale will have to watch from the sidelines when Real Madrid's Champions League bid resumes at home to Napoli on Wednesday.
Ronaldo is available for the last-16, first-leg tie at the Bernabeu after shrugging off a knock picked up in Saturday's La Liga win over Osasuna, but Bale has only just returned to training following ankle ligament damage and has been left to continue his recovery.
Holders Real are unbeaten in their last 11 Champions League matches at home but Maurizio Sarri's Napoli are on an 18-match unbeaten streak of their own in all competitions, and Zinedine Zidane has warned against complacency.
"He's a very good coach, his teams play very good football and he's got some excellent results which means he is working very well," Zidane said of his counterpart.
"In a two-legged tie, the aim is always to keep a clean sheet and that's our message. But beyond that, I want us to be really focused. They will play directly because they are fast and intense. They might get behind our defensive line but we have to make sure it doesn't happen very often."
An estimated 10,000 Napoli supporters are in Madrid for the club's first Champions League knockout tie since 2012 - including club great Diego Maradona.
"We are very happy to have Diego here but thank God he won't be playing!" Real playmaker Luka Modric said. "Napoli are in great form - no-one's beaten them for a long time - but we're playing at home and we believe we can win."
Wednesday's tie comes too soon for Real Madrid star Bale, and defender Danilo also misses out after suffering a gashed leg against Osasuna.
Zidane has an otherwise healthy squad at his disposal and all 19 players came through Tuesday's training session, with Karim Benzema set to continue in attack despite his six-game goal drought and Lucas Vasquez tipped for a start.
Arkadiusz Milik is back in Napoli's ranks after recovering from cruciate ligament damage but the Poland international is likely to start on the sidelines again, with Dries Mertens partnered by Lorenzo Insigne and former Madrid winger Jose Maria Callejon in attack.
In their only previous encounter, Real Madrid knocked out Napoli in the first round of the 1987/88 European Cup, winning 2-0 at home before a 1-1 draw in Italy.
However, Real Madrid have been eliminated in seven of their last eight home/away ties with Italian sides in the European Cup/Champions League, the only exception coming against Roma in last season's round of 16.
This is the 20th consecutive season in which Real Madrid have made it to the Champions League knockout stages, a record in the competition - they have reached the semis in each of the last six seasons.
Napoli topped their Champions League group for the first time, after finishing second (2011/12) and third (2013/14). However, they've never gone further than the round of 16.
Since 2010/11, Real Madrid have won 33 of their 39 Champions League games at Santiago Bernabeu (D4 L2). Their two defeats during that time have come against Barcelona in April 2011 and Schalke in March 2015.
Real Madrid have also never failed to score in their last 33 Champions League home games, longest ever run in the competition. Barcelona were the last team to leave the Bernabeu with a clean sheet (2-0 in April 2011).
Napoli, meanwhile, have only kept one clean sheet in 10 Champions League away games, it was on their only visit to Spain, against Villarreal in December 2011 (2-0).
However, Napoli are unbeaten away from home in this season's Champions League (W2 D1), their only loss coming at San Paolo against Besiktas (2-3).
Real Madrid might be top of La Liga with a couple of games to spare, but they are not in their best form either. Cristiano Ronaldo is still in one of those 'give me the ball and I'll score' moods.
I'm quite disappointed with the fluency Zinedine Zidane has got in his team. They're still not an amazing side to watch and with Isco now back in, they are a bit one-paced for my liking.
Napoli, led by their main man Marek Hamsik, are quite an unpredictable side and have a physical threat and can sit in and hit you on the counter-attack.
I think Real will grind out the win and the man I'm backing to get another crucial goal is one I don't really enjoy watching, but is such a threat at set pieces, Sergio Ramos.
Real Madrid are Sky Bet's 3/5 favourites with Napoli 4/1 to upset their reigning champions, while the draw is priced at 100/30. Zinedine Zidane's men are currently 5/1 third favourites as they look to land unprecedented back-to-back Champions League triumphs, while Napoli are 50/1 outsiders. Cristiano Ronaldo heads the first goalscorer betting at 5/2 and is enhanced from 11/2 to 12/1 to bag a hat-trick is Sky Bet's Price Boosts, while the free-scoring Dries Mertens is 8/1 to net first.
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