Milan (AFP) – If Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina reproduces the kind of form that was key to Saturday’s 2-1 win over Roma against Real Madrid in midweek, a Champions League upset could be on the cards.
But the former Barcelona and Liverpool shot-stopper would be forgiven for also hoping Cristiano Ronaldo forgets his shooting boots Tuesday when Napoli bid to overturn a 3-1 first leg, last 16 defeat against the 11-time European champions.
At the Santiago Bernabeu last month, Reina and Ronaldo were meeting for the first time since the 2008-2009 season, when they both played Premier League football.
In England, they met a total of six times and, with three victories, a draw and two defeats while playing for Manchester United, Portugal’s four-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo comes out on top.
Ahead of Tuesday’s clash at what Reina hopes will be a “red-hot” San Paolo, the odds, and statistics, are firmly stacked against Maurizio Sarri’s hosts.
If Napoli are to go through on away goals, they will have to do what no team has managed since Wolfsburg beat Madrid in the quarter-finals nearly a year and 46 games ago — keep a clean sheet against Los Blancos.
As Napoli look to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, Madrid are poised to reach their seventh in succession.
Yet even defeat last time out, Reina was defiant in their chances, saying post-match: “We have to believe in the comeback, because we can beat Madrid 2-0 at home.
“A goal away from home is very important. We have nothing to lose. Real were and are the favourites, but they can expect a red hot reception at the San Paolo.”
If Reina’s performances for a slick Napoli side currently being inspired by the goalscoring exploits of Dries Mertens are anything to go by this season, he could provide the much-needed X factor.
Reina was superb in a thrilling 2-1 win over Roma on Saturday that saw him deny Diego Perotti at the death with an acrobatic, one-handed save he pushed onto the crossbar before sweeping the ball away away with his leg.
It was an inspired stop that secured the win for Napoli and reduced the gap on second-placed Roma to two points, but Roma, who are already eliminated, are not Real Madrid.
Quantifying past meetings between Reina and Ronaldo is a difficult task: although United came out on top, Ronaldo has now only beaten Reina twice in seven encounters, once from the spot.