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A Week Of Misery For Calcio In The Champions League As Napoli, Milan And Juve All Fail To Win

Sunday 6th October 2013
Matchday 2 could have been much kinder to the Italian contingent in the Champions League this week, as rather to most people's surprise, Juventus, Milan and Napoli all failed to add to the "W" column in their respective groups.

It is definitely fair to say that all three teams had tough games, but victories were expected.

On Tuesday evening, Rafa Benitez returned to London with his in form Napoli side to face Arsenal in the "group of death", Group F. The home side themselves have been in excellent form of late, leading the Premier League after six games.

Arsene Wenger was able to field a full strength side while Partenopei were missing talisman Gonzalo Higuain, which was evident throughout the game.

Two early goals put the game beyond Napoli. Arsenal's two players of the season combined as Aaron Ramsey crossed for Mesut Özil to make it 1-0 with a sublime finish, leaving Pepe Reina with no chance. The German then turned provider as Olivier Giroud made it two moments later.

Napoli probed, but in truth they looked flat without Higuain. Lorenzo Insigne had his moments, but he could do nothing to stop Arsenal going clear in the most ruthless group in the competition. Dortmund comfortably brushed Marseille aside 3-0, meaning Napoli will bbe feeling uneasy heading to the South of France on Matchday 3.

As all of the Group H attention seemed to be on Celtic Park where a Lionel Messi-less Barcelona avenged last season's defeat against Celtic by winning 1-0, Max Allegri took his Milan side to Amsterdam to face Ajax.

The Amsterdam Arena is traditionally a tough place to go, though with both teams going through modest spells in their respective successful histories, on paper this encounter wasn't as exciting as it could have been.

It is most likely to be the race for second place between the duo, as you'd expect Barcelona to top the group and Celtic's lack of ability to shine through.

The game was lifeless at times, and it wasn't until late that the game found it's spark. Frank De Boer's side took the lead when Stefano Denswil put the ball past Cristian Abbiati from six yards. Staring down the barrel of a damaging defeat, the Rossoneri needed something.

Their prayers were answered in the nick of time as Mario Balotelli was brought down in the area. Milan had the chance to save a point

Balotelli himself stepped up, having seen history made a couple of weeks previously as he missed from 12 yards for the first time in his career against Napoli. No mistake this time though, and it was 1-1. That point leaves Milan in second place, trailing Barcelona by two points ahead of their meeting at the San Siro on matchday 3. Allegri and his charges will be tthe happiest of the three Italian sides at this stage

Attention then switched to Wednesday night.

After their disappointing draw at supposed Group B whipping boys FC Copenhagen last week, a result alarming similar to their failings in Nordsjaelland last year, the Old Lady were hoping to to kick start their campaign at home to turkish side Galastaray.

The Turkish side, also fresh from a 6-1 humiliation at home to Real Madrid on Matchday 1, were lead into the game by Roberto Mancini. The ex Manchester City and Inter boss replaced Fatih Terim last week and was sure to get a frosty reception from the Juve faithful he had tormented before

Lest we forget that Gala also have some excellent players, including Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Inter old boy Wesley Sneijder, so they were hardly pushovers

It was the former that gave the visitors the lead, which gave Antonio Conte's side a much needed wake up call. It looked like an Arturo Vidal penalty and a late Fabio Quagliarella header would be enough to keep the three points in Turin. However, Mancini's men had other ideas, snatching an equaliser at the death through Umut Bulut.

A pattern has developed in this Champions League campaign for all the Italisan sides, as they each sit in second place in their respective tables. As all have very good sides with healthy advantages over them, it may be that second place is the best they all can hope for. However, my bet is they will all reach the last 16.
Harry De Cosemo
19 years old, Newcastle season ticket holder. European football enthusiast and aspiring football writer. Currently doing a Journalism degree at Teesside University. You can follow me on Twitter: @harrydecosemo

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