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Villarreal out to blunt Napoli's home edge

SSC Napoli will look to maintain their miserly home form and prolong Villarreal CF's wait for a first win on Italian soil as the sides kick off their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie.

Edinson Cavani was Napoli's hero in the group stage
Edinson Cavani was Napoli's hero in the group stage ©Getty Images

SSC Napoli will be keen to maintain their miserly home form and prolong Villarreal CF's wait for a maiden success on Italian soil as the sides kick off their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie in Naples.

Previous meetings
• The two teams will be meeting for the first time in UEFA club competition.

• Napoli are unbeaten in their last three games against Spanish opponents since losing 2-0 at Real Madrid CF in the 1987/88 European Champion Clubs' Cup first round.

• Napoli have never suffered defeat at home against a Spanish club, with their previous two fixtures comprising a draw and a win.

• Napoli took on Villarreal's near neighbours Valencia CF in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup first round, a tie Uruguayan striker Daniel Fonseca no doubt remembers with fondness. He scored all five of the Partenopei's goals in a 5-1 first-leg success in Spain before adding his team's only strike as they won the return fixture 1-0.

• Villarreal's 12 games against Serie A outfits have earned them the record W5 D3 L4. They have never lost at home against an Italian outfit, winning five out of six contests, but have yet to triumph in Italy, where their record reads W0 D2 L4.

Match background
• Napoli have not conceded in four European home outings this season, though they have hardly been prolific at the Stadio San Paolo. They have found the net just twice, earning two 1-0 successes and a pair of goalless draws.

• Villarreal's away form has been inconsistent in Europe this season, the Yellow Submarine having won two and lost two on their travels. They have gone 12 games without drawing away from home in UEFA club competition.

• Napoli have not played a springtime UEFA club competition tie since they won the 1988/89 UEFA Cup, when they beat VfB Stuttgart 5-4 on aggregate in the final.

• Villarreal are gracing the knockout stage of a major European tournament for the fourth year in succession, though two of their last three campaigns ended in the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League round of 32.

Team facts
• Napoli are the only Serie A side left in the UEFA Europa League after Juventus, US Città di Palermo and UC Sampdoria all bowed out in the group stage.

• The second leg of this fixture will be Villarreal's 100th game in UEFA club competition.

• FC Porto's Falcao is the top scorer in this season's UEFA Europa League with seven goals; Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi and Napoli's Edinson Cavani are among the five players who lie second in the rankings with five goals, along with Tomáš Necid (PFC CSKA Moskva), Wilfried Bony (AC Sparta Praha) and Artem Milevskiy (FC Dynamo Kyiv).

• Cavani had the most shots on goal of any player during the group stage with 15, but Rossi was just one attempt behind him on 14.

• Villarreal striker Rossi is an Italian international and has played in Serie A with Parma FC.

• Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis (Sevilla FC 2007/08) and forward Cristiano Lucarelli (Valencia 1998/99) both have experience of Spanish football.

• Napoli midfielder Michele Pazienza was a member of the ACF Fiorentina side that drew 1-1 at Villarreal in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup group stage.

• In Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri's only previous encounter with Spanish opposition, his Sampdoria team beat Sevilla 1-0 at home in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage.

• Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido will be tackling an Italian club for the first time.

• The overall winners will take on the victors in the tie between FC Metalist Kharkiv and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the round of 16 on 10 and 17 March, playing the first leg away from home.