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A date with destiny for both Chelsea and Napoli, who will do battle at Stamford Bridge for a place in the last eight of the Champions League.

In winter 1066 Harold Godwinson was thrust to the forefront and took the throne of Anglo-Saxon England after the death of his predecessor Edward the Confessor. His reign was rather short lived and he died in the Battle of Hastings later that year.

Harold earned his place in history after a stunning battle against the brutish Viking army. At that time London was replete with petty internal squabbles and claims for power, and the Vikings, sensing weakness set a course to invade the land and leave London victorious.

Instead of waiting for the onslaught, King Harold went on the offensive and took his army north to battle at the crossing of the River Derwent. They caught the Vikings by surprise and defeated them at Stamford Bridge.

On Wednesday night, Chelsea Football Club, led by their interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, will have a similar challenge as they take on a swashbuckling Napoli full of brute force and firepower, particularly a Herculean striker Edinson Cavani and the trickery of Ezequiel Lavezzi.

The Neapolitans took a 3-1 lead in the first leg at the stadio San Paolo, but some wasteful finishing, particularly from Christian Maggio, combined with an away goal in the form of an impish strike from Chelsea’s Juan Mata, have left the tie in a delicate situation. Clearly either team could still emerge victorious.

Napoli travel to the Bridge full of confidence and scenting blood. They demolished Cagliari 6-3 on Friday night, have won six games in succession and only suffered one loss this year – a 2-1 defeat in the Coppa Italia Semi-Final against minnows Siena.

Contrarily, Chelsea have had a torrid start to 2012 that culminated with a change of managers…again. However three clean sheets in their last four games, a return from injury for Club Captain John Terry and the fact that for all the goals Napoli score they can just as easily concede , will give the home side cause for optimism…(maybe even enough for Fernando Torres).

Napoli rested Edinson Cavani at the weekend and have no real injury concerns, which should see them start with a first choice XI. The holy trinity of Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik will hope to wreak havoc upfront, supported by the tireless and enterprising Christian Maggio on the right flank and anchored by the increasingly impressive Gokhan Inler, who was the best midfielder on display in the first leg.

Ahead of the encounter Paolo Cannavaro claimed that Napoli would attack Chelsea after “rediscovering” their gritty determination and desire to win” that has helped them to win many admirers across Europe.

Roberto Di Matteo will have some more difficult decisions to make. A consistent failure to include the old guard was one of the reasons for André Villas-Boas’ early departure. The experience of players like Lampard and Drogba could see the interim manager overlook the youth, but Juan Mata’s assist to clinch a winner against Stoke at the weekend could see him play in a more central position. John Terry’s return should also see David Luiz left on the bench to make Chelsea a more robust outfit that tries to turn back the clock for one more heroic and famous night at the Bridge.

John Mata says the team’s home form in Europe this season – three victories without conceding a goal and scoring 10 – combined with Arsenal’s valiant efforts against AC Milan last week has given them the belief to overturn the two-goal deficit.

For both teams this match is a defining moment in the season. Qualifying for the quarter-finals would justify both teams obsession with Europe, and potentially give them the morale lifting boost to improve indifferent domestic form, that has left both clubs just outside Champions League qualifying places for next season.

A loss however, could spell catastrophe and much like the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 see history books list an additional end of an era.

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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