NAPLES, ITALY - NOVEMBER 22: Edinson Cavani (C) with his teammates of SSC Napoli celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between SSC Napoli and Manchester City FC at Stadio San Paolo on November 22, 2011 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
A bitter blow. I wrote plenty in the build up to the game suggesting that the pair of victories against Villarreal had seen City begin to find their feet in the Champions League and cast off some of the naivety that had punctuated their game in the first two games. As well as Napoli played tonight - something that will inevitably get lost in the analysis of the defeat - City were complicit in their own downfall. To conceded not once, but twice in situation that were avoidable is bad enough but the timing of both (particularly the second) left too big a mountain to climb to even get a point from the game.
I was interested in the approach of both sides to the game tonight. Particularly so with Napoli, whose campaign has largely been built on the back of a counter-attacking style of play and utilising the talents in the final third of the trio of Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani. Tonight witnessed a more attacking display from them, particularly early in both halves where they got reward for their endeavour. The pace and incisiveness in which they attacked was impressive and both Lavezzi and Cavani shone even brighter than they did in the first game with Gargano and Inler the foundation in midfield.
Much of the talk in the immediate aftermath has focussed on Mancini's selections: both ahead of and during the game. Despite their Premier League form, both Micah Richards and Gael Clichy were once again omitted in Europe (Richards starting one and Clichy two games so far); the assumption being that Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov offer more defensively but their selection detracts from an attacking standpoint and is their defensive game such a big drop off to warrant their non-selection. The rest of the selection I thought Mancini got right: the selection of James Milner vindicated with a display full of purpose and endeavour but unfortunately neither Edin Dzeko nor Mario Balotelli (his goal aside) really worked. Could the introductions of Adam Johnson and Sergio Aguero have been made earlier?
The numbers from the game were interesting tonight. City dominated possession with 70.4% but it is clear from who posted the highest number of touches and passes that the majority of this was outside of the final third, whereas Napoli's possession and passing numbers (although much lower) were in areas that resulted in them being able to create and inflict damage on City, whereas City in the main failed to carve truly great chances out.
There is still hope of qualification of course but at this point it is difficult to see a way in which City progress. Not only do City have to defeat Bayern, but also hope that Napoli either draw or lose to Villarreal. City can of course point to being handed an extremely tough draw (with Napoli the fourth seed don't forget) but they have far from helped themselves along the way but to ensure progression to the knock-out stages, it is help from elsewhere that they now need.