London: If Chelsea fail to overturn a two-goal deficit against a buoyant Napoli on Wednesday, England will be without a representative in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 1996.
Chelsea were left to fly the flag for the English Premier League after Arsenal were eliminated by AC Milan last week, continuing England's poor run in the competition this season after the two Manchester clubs were knocked out at the group stages.
Yet the chances of Chelsea going further than their London rivals look remote considering Napoli - enjoying a stunning first season in the Champions League - are 3-1 up from the first leg and have won their last five Italian league games, the most recent a 6-3 hammering of Cagliari on Friday.
If Chelsea fail, England will be without a team in the Champions League quarters for the first time since 1996.
"We're focused and ready because we want to continue living this Champions League dream," Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro.
Napoli, the only one of this season's five debutants still standing, twice took part in the old European Cup during Diego Maradona's days at the club but never progressed beyond the second round.
Spearheaded by a three-pronged strike force of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik, which ripped Chelsea's creaking defence apart in the last leg, the team could go deep this year, however.
"Maradona's days remain the best in Napoli's history, but we feel we are nearly on a par with that era and that makes us proud," said Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri.
With the hosts needing to pour forward to get back in the match, Napoli will look to pick them off on the counter-attack.
"We will have to be balanced, obviously, because their threat on counter-attacking is very good and they have some players that can hurt you," interim Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said. "When they come here on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, they will play against a good team, a great team, and we will make their life difficult ... we have to believe that we can turn this around."
Ravaged by internal politik that contributed to the firing of Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the month, Chelsea have lost the swagger and class that helped the team reach the Champions League quarter-finals in six of the last eight seasons.
Yet Di Matteo has managed to restore some belief since taking over from Villas-Boas, earning wins in the FA Cup and Premier League in the space of four days without conceding a goal, and the team has danger men in Spain winger Juan Mata and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba.
"We can do it because we have the players, the attitude and the character," said Drogba, who scored his 100th league goal for Chelsea in the 1-0 win over Stoke on Saturday.
"This is the kind of match where you need the crowd to be strong, to be good even if we make mistakes. This is a difficult moment for Chelsea so we need the fans to be behind us."
Mata and England forward Daniel Sturridge started on the bench against Stoke so can expect a recall, while Drogba should again start ahead of out-of-form Fernando Torres up front.
Napoli rested Cavani, their top striker, for much of the match against Cagliari so the Uruguay international will be fresh when he teams up again with Argentina forward Lavezzi, who has six goals in the team's last four matches.
"We've still got a lot of work to do," Mazzarri said. "We're going to have to play to the limit for the entire 90 minutes. This squad has a defect in that it's not able to maintain its level for all 90 minutes."
Meanwhile, Mazzarri has had his touchline ban temporarily lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and will take his place on the bench for the second-leg match against Chelsea on Wednesday.
Mazzarri was handed a two-match ban for "improper conduct" after he pushed Villarreal forward Nilmar to protest time-wasting tactics during a group match in December.
Napoli appealed to CAS, which says it has agreed to temporarily lift the ban while it studies the full case.
Mazzarri watched Napoli beat Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of the last-16 on television.
UEFA turned down Napoli's appeals last month and added a third match to the sanction. The additional ban was deferred for a two-year probationary period.
- Terry hoping for great night at Stamford Bridge
- Torres has 'psychological problem': Di Matteo
- Senior players did not force Villas-Boas out, says Terry
- Terry rubbishes claims of player power at Chelsea