Fearless Napoli to test mettle against Dortmund
Rafael Benitez's Napoli will put their Champions League credentials on the line when they welcome last season's beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund to the San Paolo on Wednesday.
Napoli are the only team in Serie A with a perfect record so far thanks to a formidable front line that has seen Marek Hamsik, Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon combine to hit nine goals, for only two conceded, in three wins from as many games.
Dortmund, beaten 2-1 in May's Wembley final by Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich, are certain to provide an altogether different challenge from the likes of Bologna, Chievo and Atalanta, though.
However Benitez, brought on board following Walter Mazzarri's departure for Inter Milan, has been wisely rotating his squad ahead of this week's challenge -- and the mood in the Azzurri camp is high.
"We are not afraid of Borussia Dortmund," Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili told Sky Sport Italia after Sunday's 2-0 win over Atalanta.
"They're a top side but at the San Paolo we can beat anyone."
Aware of Dortmund's impressive 6-2 win over Hamburg at the weekend, Dzemaili added: "They're obviously playing well, but we'll be going out for a win."
Napoli's chances of claiming a first victory from a group which also contains Arsenal and Marseille were given a potential boost when Dortmund skipper Sebastian Kehl was ruled out for six weeks Monday with torn ankle ligaments.
But along with Arsenal, the Germans will be fancied to claim one of the group's two qualifying spots following last season's impressive drive to the final.
In the close season Dortmund, already boasting the talents of Robert Lewandowski, reinforced their attack with Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkitaryan.
At the weekend Aubameyang and Lewandowski both grabbed a brace and Mkitaryan one goal as Dortmund tore Hamburg apart, to make it five league wins in as many games.
Coach Jurgen Klopp says his side is ready, but knows it will be a tougher challenge in Naples.
"We are ready for Naples. However this is a different competition and Napoli will be a tough opponent to break down, but we are also no pushovers," said Klopp.
Napoli, runners-up to Serie A champions Juventus last season, are making their second group stage appearance in three years, having made it to the last 16 in 2012 only to fall 5-4 on aggregate to eventual champions Chelsea.
Slovakian midfielder Hamsik, who with four goals is Serie A's top scorer, was one of four regulars rested for Saturday's visit of Atalanta but immediately made a difference after replacing Goran Pandev on 65 minutes.
Despite finding it "difficult" to make a prediction, Hamsik is confident Benitez's men can do enough on Wednesday to lay the foundations for another charge towards the competition's knockout phase.
"Two years ago we were in a group of death with Bayern, Manchester City and Villarreal but we still qualified for the last 16," he told Monday's Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I believe that now, more than ever, we can challenge any side."