SSC Napoli v Hellas Verona - Serie A
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Start your week with more soccer! I'm Mike Goodman we're looking ahead to the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals and looking back at a weekend that might have changed the Premier League title race. Look away, Arsenal fans. Everybody else, enjoy your Monday edition of the Golazo Starting XI newsletter.

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📺 Champions League on Paramount+

All times U.S./Eastern.

Tuesday, April 18
⚽ Chelsea vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
⚽ Napoli vs. AC Milan, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

🎥 CBS Sports Golazo Network will offer a live second-screen tactical cam for Real-Chelsea.

Wednesday, April 19
⚽ Bayern Munich vs. Man City, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
⚽ Inter vs. Benfica, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

🎥 CBS Sports Golazo Network will offer a live second-screen tactical cam for City-Bayern.

⚽  The Forward Line

Napoli trying to snap out of funk

For the first time all season, Napoli find themselves stuck in a rut with only one win in four matches. And even that one win was a struggle -- a 2-1 win away to relegation battling Lecce. None of this will impact their Scudetto chase. They've built a commanding Serie A lead and sit 14 points ahead Lazio with eight matches to play. 

But as it stands, they have some more immediate concerns in European play. They trail AC Milan 1-0 after the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal matchup, and on Tuesday they take the field at Diego Maradona Stadium fighting for their continental lives.


To make things worse, one of Napoli's most important midfielders Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa picked up a red card in the first leg and will be suspended for the match. As Francesco Porzio points out in his latest article, it's going to be extremely hard for head coach Luciano Spalletti to find a midfielder that can fill that void.

  • Porzio: "Without him, Napoli will likely play Tanguy Ndombele with Piotr Zielinski and Stanislav Lobotka as starters in the 4-3-3. However, Ndombele only started nine games this season in all competitions and can't guarantee the efficiency of Anguissa from a defensive perspective. It's clear that Napoli will be weakened by this crucial absence but Spalletti is left with no other options."

On the bright side for Napoli, striker Victor Osimhen is likely to be back in the starting lineup. The Nigerian striker has been indispensable across all competitions for Napoli this season, scoring 25 goals combined in Serie A and the Champions League. His absence was a major problem for Napoli in the first leg, when without him, and with backup Giovanni Simeone also injured, Spalletti opted to start midfielder Eljif Elmas as an emergency striker. He took a grand total of one shot despite playing the full 90 minutes.

If Napoli don't get it done, it'll be a disappointing end to their Champions League campaign. But even that is a testament to how far they have come. Milan are the Serie A defending champions, and before the season started, Napoli weren't even expected to finish in the top four in Serie A. Now it's a foregone conclusion that they'll win the league for the first time since the days of Maradona, while Milan struggle in fifth place. 

When the quarterfinal draw was released with Bayern Munich and Manchester City paired together on one side of the bracket, it was Napoli who were the big beneficiaries with what seemed like a relatively smooth path to the final. The fact that they were the team that was most likely to take advantage speaks volumes about how far Spalletti's team has come this season.

Napoli, a team that has passed just about every test faced, are dealing with adversity for the first time this season. But if you want to compete with the biggest clubs in the world, you don't get graded on a curve. Although their season might be viewed as a failure and a disappointment if they can't get past Milan, it's worth reminding ourselves just how remarkable it is that Napoli have blossomed into a UCL title contender in the first place.

Craving more soccer coverage? Listen below and follow House of Champions, a CBS Sports soccer podcast, bringing you top-notch analysis, commentary, picks and more. 

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

Arsenal's title chances slip

It seemed like business as usual for Arsenal in the first 50 minutes of Sunday's 2-2 draw to West Ham. Two early goals had them on cruise control. Bukayo Saka stepped to the penalty spot in the 52nd minute and missed an opportunity to put away a game that should have already been safely stowed in the overhead bins. From that moment, it only took West Ham two minutes to equalize, and now Arsenal's lead atop the Premier League is on shakier ground than ever. They lead Manchester City by only four points, with an extra game played, and a trip to the Etihad looming on April 26. Here is James Benge breaking down what the collapse means for Arsenal.

  • Benge: "Arsenal have shredded nearly all of the advantage they had built up over a Manchester City side that finally looks like the sort of team that could win out over the remainder of the season. If that happens, the title is theirs. For a moment on Sunday, Arsenal looked like a team that could stop them from doing that. But a moment is not long enough this season."

And now let's get to some links:

🔗 It's a Champions League Monday and that means expert picks!
🔗 Julie Ertz is reportedly close to signing with Angel City FC as she returns to the NWSL.
🔗 Tottenham blew another chance to get back in the top-four race, writes Chuck Booth.
🔗 More from Booth on how Antony holds the key to Manchester United's success going forward.
🔗 Kylian Mbappe set another record as PSG downed Lens to take control of the title race in France, writes Jonathan Johnson.
🔗 Fit check! The Morning Footy crew took a look at some of your best (and worst) dressed soccer players.
🔗 Roma keeper Rui Patricio saved a penalty in a 2-0 win over Udinese and Jose Mourinho was pumped up.
🔗 Elsewhere, Inter, AC Milan and Juventus all followed up big wins in Europe with losses in Serie A. Talk about a vibe shift.
🔗 The FA Cup women's final is set and it's a classic matchup between Manchester United and Chelsea.
🔗 House of Champions: It's a Champions League preview Monday.
🔗 Attacking Third: Sandra and Lisa look back on all the weekend NWSL action.
🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs -- from NWSL to Champions League to Serie A and so much more -- are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: NWSL2023.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend's best bets.

  • UCL: Chelsea vs. Real Madrid, Tuesday, 3 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Real Madrid (+140) -- Fool me once, shame on Frank Lampard. Fool me twice, shame on me. As it turned out, a 2-0 loss in the opening leg was about the best Chelsea could have hoped for. They went for it, played a wide open style, and got repeatedly carved apart with absolutely nothing to show for it. Expect more of the same at Stamford Bridge as a side that simply cannot score tries to erase a two-goal deficit.
  • UCL: Napoli vs. AC Milan, Tuesday, 3 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Napoli (-135) -- I still believe in this team. And, yes, missing out on Anguissa in midfield will be a big deal, but getting Osimhen back in attack is a big boost. The sheer surprise of Napoli being THIS good this season has made people underestimate them all year long, and it isn't stopping now. I think Napoli find a way to go through.