Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli: full time report
Napoli grabbed an early lead through Lorenzo Insigne but Real Madrid took control shortly after that and never looked back as they head to Naples in March with a 3-1 lead. The away goal is scant consolation for Napoli as they were thoroughly outplayed at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.
It was strange to see Napoli play such an expansive passing game in midfield when they said they would be happy with a draw. so many of those unneccesary passes were picked off by Real Madrid and with Toni Kroos and Luke Modric playing in the opposing midfield, that can spell disaster for any team.
Insigne caught Keylor Navas out of position for the first, but Benzema replied with a header to level matter 10 minutes later. Real Madrid were just biding their time at that point and Napoli could sense danger. That didn't stop them from playing around with it, however, and when Ronaldo stole down the endline and pulled back to Kroos, there was only going to be one outcome. Just five minutes later, Casemiro - the unlikeliest of heroes - buried a right-footed volley as Napoli were again caught out trying to be too smart in dangerous territory.
Napoli have much to consider in the next three weeks as they look to clam back the 3-1 lead but that away goal could mean something when it's all said and done.
Real Madrid 3-1 Napoli: second half
Min 90+3 | Lucas nearly races through but Koulibaly gets a foot to it and back to Reina. Bernabeu says backpass but the referee isn't entertaining that one.
Min 90+2 | Morata is really keen. He is all the way back in his own defence trying to help out and get touches. He goes down under a challenge, grabbing his ankle, but the referee says play on.
Min 88 | Marcelo with a lovely cross but Koulibaly meets it first and headers away.
Min 85 | Morata makes a burst down the right and pulls it back to Ronaldo. He weighs up his options and decides to give it to Marcelo but the left-back pulls his shot well wide. Real good chance for Real Madrid to wrap things up there.
Napoli susbtitution - Hamsik comes off and is replaced by Milik.
Min 83 | Modric and Kroos with a move out of the training ground. the Gemran pulls a corner back to Modric and the Croatian has a crack, but it goes just over the bar. Nice intention. Porr execution.
Real Madrid substitution - Alvaro Morata is Zidane's last substitute as he replaces Karim Benzema.
Min 80 | Callejón has the ball in the back of the net but Callejón was adjudged to have been offside. Mertens made a lovely run in behind Real's defense but Callejón strayed off as the Belgian headered it down to him.
75 minute update - The sting gone out of Napoli's game. Sarri chose the more defensive midfield in the hopes of holding of Real before getting them back to Naples but they have suffered here. Real Madrid could very easily get another, which would surely kill off this tie.
Real Madrid subtitution - James is replaced by Lucas Vazquez. Is Zidane going for the kill?
Min 75 | Dries Mertens receieves a booking for a late tackle on Casemiro. He's certainly not happy and is telling the ref it was his first offense.
Napoli substitution - Zielinski comes off and is replaced by Allan.
Min 73 | Kroos plays in James. He is foiled by Pepe Reina as he saves with a dangling hand.
Min 73 | Lorenazo Insigne has a shot but it is high and over the bar.
Real Madrid substitution - Pepe comes on for Sergio Ramos as he looks to have pulled up with a muscle injury.
Min 71 | Dries Mertens is in again but Navas closes down the angles and he fires against him. Good effort but he was left a lot to do. He is still getting into good positions.
Min 70 | Pepe Reina gives it away from a goalkick and a cross nearly finds Benzema but Reina rectifies his earlier mistake.
Min 68 | A really good move by Napoli. Callejón drops the ball back to Mertens but the Belgian fires high and over. He really should have scored and he knows it as he remains on his knees wondering what might have been.
Min 67 | Casemiro's tail is up and he tries another one with his right. This one goes wide though. James lets him know that his volley was a once-off and tells him he was free. Casemiro nods in agreement.
Min 66 | Benzema in down the left and he pulls it back to Ronaldo. His left-footed effort suffers the same fate as Marcelo's. High and into the back of the stand!
Min 64 | Marcelo tries to outdo Casemiro with his own left-footed half-volley but it goes arseways and high and wide. Some lucky fan at the back of the stand has a nice souvenir though!
Min 63 | Sarri up off his seat and really not happy. It has to be time for a change for him. His side are controlling possession but not troubling Real Madrid at all.
Min 61 | Marcelo fouls Zielinski and the ref plays advantage but Casemiro hauls down Mertens too and he gives Napoli a free just outside the edge of the square.
60 minute update - What the different 15 minutes make. Two goals in five minutes and the sting has been taken out of napoli's tail. they have regained a morsel of control but Real Madrid happy to sit back and soak up their pressure. Another one here and this one could be as good as over.
Min 59 | Mertens with lovely control causes some confusion for Real Madrid but in his pursuits, he fouls Ramos.
Min 56 | Napoli reeling now. They are failing even to put any meaningful moves together.
Min 54 | GOAL! What a finish from Casemiro. Utter elation in the Bernabeu. Napoli's passing in close quarters, again, sees them lose the ball high up the field and this time, Casemiro swings a right foot at it and puts it beyond Reina. No chance!
Min 54 | Marcelo fancies it. he drives a shot with his left, but it goes high and just over Reina's crossbar.
Min 53 | Modric and James link up before the Croatian tries a cross. Koulibaly gets a foot to it, but it's a corner.
Min 52 | Luka Modric is booked for a late tackle on Hamsik. He protests but it does him no good.
Min 52 | Callejón strikes a rather hopeful effort but it is half-blocked and rolls into a thankful Navas' gloves.
Min 51 | That goal was coming. They haven't carved to many gilt-edged chances but they have done more than enough to deserve the lead.
Min 49 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! Ronaldo does so well to pull the ball back to Kroos and he slots home from outside the box. What a finish.
Min 47 | Marcelo obstructs Hysaj as he looks for a return pass from Zielinksi. Free, but nothing comes of it and Real Madrid exert their control on proceedings again.
Min 46 | Here we go! Second half begins.
No change for either side as they re-emerge from the tunnel. Sarri might not be long making a change as his side finished the first half under some heavy pressure.
Real Madrid 1-1 Napoli: first half summary
A frantic start to this tie saw two goals in the first eighteen minutes. Since then, Real Madrid have had all of the ball and the lion's share of the chances. Napoli are throwing together some nice combinations in the middle and with their attacking full-backs but losing the ball and then being caught out of possession. There are goals in this for Real Madrid if it stays like this.
Real Madrid 1-1 Napoli: first half
HT at the Bernabeu.
Min 45 | Again, Napoli overdo it in the middle and lose possession tamely. Sarri has them playing nice football but it is slightly overcooked sometimes. Real Madrid enjoying picking them off.
Min 42 | How did he miss? Benzema put through by Ronaldo, who was given the ball from Carvajal but he can't convert. To his credit, he was under immense pressure and Reina closed the angles. So close. Napoli need to be careful as their full-backs are getting caught out time and time again.
Min 40 | James leaves Hysaj for dead but is ruled offside. That was very, very close and the Colombian thinks he was on the right side of the law!
Min 39 | Modric has a strike that is going tamely into Reina's area but it takes a deflection of Koulibaly and out for a corner. Every bounce seems to be going the way of the hosts now.
Min 37 | Casemiro, with his head down, barrels through the middle but Zielinski brings his dreams of scoring to a quick halt and gets booked for his tackle.
Min 34 | Koulibaly exacts revenge on Ronaldo as he turns him upside down and the referee doesn't give a free this time.
Min 32 | Mertens gives the ball to Hamsik, but his left-footed shot is well wide. He couldn't wrap his foot around it properly.
30 minute update - Real Madrid looked like they might have been in trouble earlier but the Benzema goal has resettled them and given them a massive boost of confidence, while seemingly draining their opponents of theirs. Napoli are playing with fire now and have put some good moves together but have acted a little loose with the ball.
Min 30 | Casemiro fouled this time by the endline. good chance for Kroos to swing one in. He opts for a short one and Modric ends up having a crack. It takes a delection and floats wide and away from danger. Corner Real Madrid. Home side really in control now.
Min 29 | Ronaldo goes down under a challenge from Koulibaly. Replays show it was very soft.
Min 28 | Ronaldo with a golden chance. Modric plays him through and, under pressure from Ghoulam, he zips it over the bar. What a chance!
Min 27 | Callejón slips at the wrong time with Napoli on the break. That's Marcelo and Callejón to slip on that side of the field now. An over-zealous field-waterer perhaps?
Min 26 | Kroos tries a cheeky ball inside to James but he is boxed out and Reina wins it.
Min 24 | Modric with a long pass into Benzema, who controls but slips at the wrong time. Napoli building again. Bernabeu think Benzema was fouled and are whistling incredibly loud. they erupt with cheers as Real Madrid win it back.
Min 22 | Napoli throwing the ball around but as soon as they move forward, Real Madrid doing a good job of squeezing them. Modric squeezes Mertens this time and wins it back. Napoli very slick in stages.
Min 20 | Mertens fouls Modric and the Bernabeu want a card. So does James as he chases the ref to let him know.
Min 19 | GOAL! That's the header Benzema needed last time. Outside of the boot cross by Dani Carvajal and Real Madrid are level. That was quick.
Min 17 | Yellow Card for Real Madrid Captain Sergio Ramos as he takes Diawara's legs from under him on a very late challenge.
15 minute update - The goal has set Napoli up perfectly and, after they openly stated that a draw would be perfect for them, they can now sit back and wait for Real Madrid to come at them. Real Madrid looking frustrated since the opening.
Min 15 | Napoli with a 5 on 4 but they slow it down and, while they keep possession, they spurn the chance. Napoli playing a tactically savvy game so far.
Min 14 | Casemiro with what looked like an elbow to the jaw as Ghoulam hits the deck. Ramos tells him to get up. So does the ref. Play on!
Min 12 | Ronaldo clips one inside by Benzema manages to miss with a header. He glanced it but it needed a solid 'put your head through it, son' and it was in!
Min 10 | Napoli happy to allow Real Madrid have the ball but they have hardly threatened. The Bernabeu is urging them to move forward but the slow, methodical passing is the option they have chosen so far.
Min 8 | GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! What a weird goal! Insigne slots beyond Navas from way outside the box. Keylor will be cricified for that. He was out of position and back-pedaling but Insigne curls it around him. Advantage Napoli.
Min 6 | Marcelo tries his luck but it goes out for a corner. He throws his hands up and accepts it was a terrible effort.
Min 5 | Varane tries a long pass across the field to Marcelo but he is too ambitious and it goes out for a throw.
Min 4 | A PSG-esque counter by Napoli as they throw a few passes around before Mertens gets it out on the left. Varane slipped and the Belgian might have been in but he was too far out. He curls one around the Real Madrid defense but Navas comes out to collect.
Min 3 | Ronaldo with some early touches down the left but Hysaj steps in and concedes a throw.
Min 2 | Benzema caught offside down the left. The Frenchman and Ronaldo doing plenty of switching early.
Min 1 | Benzema with a chance after about 15 seconds as he rattles a shot at Pepe Reina, as the Spanish shot-stopper fists it away with a strong right hand.
Min 1 | Damir Skomina's whistle gets us underway
Real Madrid-Napoli: team news
Real Madrid XI: Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Casemiro, Kroos, James, Modric, Benzema, Ronaldo.
Napoli XI: Reina, Hysaj, Koulibaly, Albiol, Ghoulam, Zieliński, Diawara, Hamšík, Callejón, Mertens, Insigne.
Real Madrid-Napoli: latest news
20:43 | Boy, those Napoli jerseys are tight. I wouldn't fancy having to wear one of them after a proper Sunday roast, unless I wanted to feel really, really bad about myself.
20:41 | Napoli fans have really travelled for this one and expect an excellent atmosphere at the Bernabeu tonight. 15,000 Napoli fans at the stadium tonight, according to some reports.
20:39 | It actually felt like the first day of Spring today in Madrid. Clear skies and plenty of sun with no rain! 12 degress at kick-off now. Hopefully both sides have a spring in their step tonight with the nice weather.
20:33 | Napoli have more Spaniards in their starting team than Real Madrid. It's Ramos and Cavrajal versus Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol and jose Callejón.
20:31 | There is an immense sense aorund the place that we were spoiled with a cracking game last night, filled with storylines and narratives and all sorts, and maybe, we won't be as lucky tonight? Are the football gods smiling down on Madrid tonight?
20:28 | Maradona has not yet been spotted at the stadium after his alleged misdemeanor earlier in the day.
20:25 | Some of the players who Florentino sold, who came back to score at the Santiago Bernabeu - Morientes, Robben, Sneijder, Huntelaar and Morata. Is Jose Callejón going to get on the score sheet tonight?
20:19 | Rafa Nadal has spoken and he wants Real Madrid to play "aggressive and enthusiastic" football and also hopes they score early without conceding. Seems a little idealistic Rafa, but we will go with it.
20:17 | Speaking of James, who is a fan of a volley from outside the area, Marik Hamsik also subsribes to the same fan club! He could fancy a few form range tonight and Real will have to be on their toes with the rangy Slovakian lurking.
20:14 | Real are without the fastest player in the world tonight too. Lucas Vazquez has obviously fallen down the pecking order despite scoring against Osasuna at the weekend, and he ain't slow, but James, Ronaldo and Benzema will be hoping they don't have to do too much tracking back tonight.
20:08 | Napoli's president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, had a little dig at Gonzalo Higuain recently but maybe he is just salty over this. To be fair though, Mertens has been sensational this year.
20:00 | Napoli have never beaten Real Madrid in a competitive fixture. Granted, of course, that they have only played twice but they lost and drew back in 1987-88 season. The 2-0 loss came with goals from Michel and a man by the name of Fernando de Napoli scored an own-goal.
19:58 | If Real Madrid's attack don't work tonight, and Napoli do play on the counter, a player like Hysaj could have a field day.
19:52 | As it turns out, Zidane really trusts James and must think he is a real Champions League player. He has started three of Real's game in the competition and two of those games were against Dortmund. Massive chance for him tonight.
19:28 | We have also been reliably informed to keep a close eye on Dries Mertens tonight! He has 16 goals in all competitions this season. He also has six yellows and lead the team in this category too - fiery little Belgian.
19:26 | And when all the shouting is done tonight, do not fret! We have football tomorrow. Why not have a peak at what's to come tomorrow when Shakhtar Donetsk travel to take on Celta Vigo in the Europa League.
19:23 | Napoli's manager Maurizio Sarri has been briefed by former Real Madrid manager, Fabio Capello, on how to beat los Blancos. Let's see if it works.
19:10 | Zidane outlined what he likes about Karim Benzema and said that he makes other players better during the presser before the game. It might be a good indication that he will start tonight, in an effort to ensure Real Madrid's wide men get involved early.
19:07 | If, as expected, Pepe leaves for China in the summer, Real Madrid have Nicolas Otamendi on their radar. They have done since 2015 when he played with Valencia.
17:45 | Tonight's Italian visitors come into the game in good form, 18 unbeaten.
17:00 | A high police presence greeted the arrival of Napoli Curva B ultras at Madrid airport this morning.
16:40 | Higuain? We're so over him. Napoli president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, gives some brilliant quotes as he puts current star Mertens ahead of their ex-hero and bigs up manager, Sarri.
16:05 | Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane spoke to the press ahead of the first leg saying how pleased he is with the work Benzema is doing on the training field.
15:15 | Back in LaLiga, reports on Catalan radio suggest Real Madrid's home clash with Barcelona in the season's second 'El Clásico' will be played on the evening of 23 April.
14:10 | Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric was at the centre of a mini-injury scare in training on Tuesday, but the Croat eased any fears over his well-being in his pre-match press conference.
13:45 | Napoli will be bringing a couple of ex-Real Madrid men with them in the shape of José Callejón and Raúl Albiol - they both spoke to the media yesterday.
12:45 | Tonight's game comes too soon for Gareth Bale and Danilo isn't involved after limping off at Osasuna at the weekend, but Cristiano Ronaldo has shaken off a knock picked up in Pamplona.
11:40 | In need of some awfully useful info on how, when and where to watch Real Madrid-Napoli tonight? Here's the lowdown.
11:15 | Breaking: Diego Maradona, who is in the Spanish to cheer on his former club against Real Madrid, is understood to be being questioned over an alleged assault on his partner at his hotel. There's more on that here.
10:25 | Here's AS editor Alfredo Relaño's take on events in the French capital last night, and tonight's clash at the Bernabéu.
09:50 | There was a game in Paris last night, apparently...
09:30 | Good morning! Stay with us for all the latest updates ahead of kick-off at the Bernabéu!
Real Madrid-Napoli: match preview
With the Champions League's two-month hiatus finally at an end this midweek with the start of the knockout stages, the tournament holders resume their title defence with a tough tie against Serie A's third-placed side.
Real host Napoli fresh from a hard-fought weekend win at Osasuna that ensured they remain LaLiga leaders - despite having two games in hand on the chasing pack.
Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is expected to revert to a 4-3-3 after another not altogether successful dabble with three at the back in Pamplona, the Frenchman admitting Real had "more balance" after a reshuffle followed an injury to Danilo.
Meanwhile, the first leg has come too soon for returning injury victim Gareth Bale but, the Welshman aside, a full-strength Real XI would appear to be in prospect.
And they head into the clash with Maurizio Sarri's team just five games short of a 73-year-old Spanish scoring record held by arch rivals Barcelona.
Napoli, who progressed to the last 16 as winners of Group B, arrive in Madrid on a stunning 18-game unbeaten run stretching back to October, thanks in no small part to the form of forward Dries Mertens, who has 14 goals in his last 11 appearances.
But the visitors will have to forgo their 'lucky' white shirt - in which they've accrued 11 wins and two draws since superstitious president Aurelio De Laurentiis ordered a change from their usual blue - as it clashes with Real's famous home kit.
The Italians' squad sees defender Lorenzo Tonelli return from injury and includes striker Arkadiusz Milik (who is recently back from cruciate ligament damage but is again set for the bench) - not to mention a few familiar faces for the home fans.
Ex-Real men Raúl Albiol and José Callejón are in line to start against their former employers, while Gli Azzurri will have Spain keeper Pepe Reina between the posts.
10,000 travelling supporters were anticipated in Madrid - and among them is club legend Diego Maradona, who was not being drawn into any predictions when he landed in the Spanish capital on Monday.
Real Madrid-Napoli: head-to-head
The teams' only previous meeting, which came back in the first round of the 1987/88 European Cup, saw Real Madrid defeat Napoli 2-0 in Spain and seal a 3-1 aggregate triumph.
Real Madrid-Napoli: possible line-ups
Real Madrid XI: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Vázquez/Isco, Benzema, Cristiano
Napoli XI: Reina, Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam, Zielinski, Jorginho, Hamsik, Callejón, Mertens, Inisgne