Posts by Paul Watson

Inter v Napoli: A Serie A must-draw?


Can Mauro Icardi help save Walter Mazzarri’s job?

Tensions will run high as Inter Milan host Napoli in a fixture neither side will be delighted to see. Both coaches have personal reasons for wanting to win: Inter’s Walter Mazzarri led Napoli very successfully before leaving on acrimonious terms, and Rafa Benitez was sacked by Inter after just six months in 2010.

More pertinently, both bosses are under pressure after disappointing starts to the season. Napoli may have made a rod for their own backs by finishing third last season and have failed to meet the expected pace this term, losing twice already in Serie A and most painfully falling at the first hurdle in the Champions League. Inter have things even worse, Mazzarri’s job is hanging by a thread after a humiliating 4-1 loss to Cagliari and a jarring 3-0 reverse at Fiorentina. Owner Erick Thohir has been very patient so far, but fans are calling for the axe and Mazzarri is living on borrowed time. His body language and demeanour aren’t encouraging and there are rumours that Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is offering his players a bonus if they topple him.

The odds show Inter are narrow favourites and the players seem to still be keen to save Mazzarri, but last season’s fixture was a tense stalemate and a similar encounter could be on the cards.


Inter Milan v Napoli Betting Odds:

Inter Milan to win – 7/5

Draw – 11/5

Napoli to win – 37/20

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)


The hosts know a defeat would probably cost coach Mazzarri his job and Napoli would almost certainly accept a draw, so a tight contest is in the offing.

A cagey affair is made all the more likely by both sides’ current striking woes. Inter have lost their most reliable striker so far this season, four-goal Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, to injury for around a month and the burden of the Nerazzurri’s goal scoring has to fall on Mauro Icardi who has three goals so far this term. Icardi can be brilliant, but he is by no means consistent.

Napoli’s goal hero from last season, Gonzalo Higuain, is misfiring badly in the league. Despite finding the net in Napoli’s brief Champions League campaign, Higuain is yet to register at all in Serie A and missed two sitters against Torino. Two goals for Argentina against Hong Kong may have restored some belief, but Napoli’s back line will be much more organised. Without Higuain’s deadly touch, Napoli will rely heavily on Jose Callejon.


The visitors have only found the net eight times and conceded seven so far all season, an average of 1.3 goals scored per game. Inter have scored 11 and conceded eight, but seven of their goals came against hapless Sassuolo – in reality they are hitting the net with roughly equal frequency to the Partenopei.

Inter will be determined to exorcise the demons of their 4-1 drubbing against lowly Cagliari in front of their fans, but home advantage may not prove to be such an advantage. In recent matches the fans have shown their displeasure at the coach and his players and if Napoli can start well the crowd may not be a 12th man as much as an unwelcome heckler.

The hosts will probably play a 3-5-2 and will hope Nemanja Vidic can steady the ship after some early teething problems. Napoli’s formation will most likely resemble a 4-5-1 with Higuain leading the charge supported by dangerous forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Callejon. Benitez, unlike Mazzarri, has the luxury of a full squad at his disposal.


Napoli have been most dangerous in the opening 15 minutes of games, scoring three times, whereas they tend to look more vulnerable during the middle of each half. Inter have conceded three times in the first 15 minutes of their matches, so Napoli could benefit from a fast start. Inter generally get stronger as the first half goes on and have only conceded one second half goal in Serie A this season.


Betting Instinct tip – Back less than three goals @ 4/5 or Napoli half-time/draw full-time @ 12/1, both with


Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) has written about Serie A for Football Italia and wrote the book Up Pohnpei. He is also one part of of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger  John Foster. Follow Paul on Twitter.


Can resurgent AC Milan trip up the Old Lady?

Pippo Inzaghi takes charge of Milan against another of the clubs he represented during his playing career

Pippo Inzaghi takes charge of Milan against another of the clubs he represented during his playing career

AC Milan fans are just starting to believe again after last season’s nightmare, but the visit of defending champions Juventus will be a true test of their Scudetto credentials. Milan will look to take advantage of hosting the Bianconeri before they truly hit their stride, but they have made an ominous start to the campaign.

Juventus won the title at a canter last season, their third in a row, but they were helped by their rivals suffering unexpectedly wretched spells, so the Turin side should expect much stiffer tests this time around. Milan proved emphatically that they can find the net with their 5-4 win over Parma, the question is whether they can rattle Juventus’s as yet unbeaten, unflappable back line.

The odds show Juventus as clear favourites but the draw is generously priced given that this is a very different Milan side to last season and they have so far been deadly in front of goal.


AC Milan v Juventus Betting Odds:

AC Milan to win – 21/10

Juventus to win – 6/5

Draw – 9/4

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)


Milan’s nine-goal thriller with Parma had everything – two red cards, an injured goalkeeper (Milan’s Diego Lopez who is out for 20 days) and a magnificent back heel winner from Jeremy Menez. Having beaten Lazio 3-1 in their opener, things are looking up for a side who suffered the rare indignity of missing out on European qualification last season. It’s the first time since 1963 that Milan have hit eight goals in their opening two games of a campaign, and they even struck five without new boy Fernando Torres, who is fighting off an ankle injury, and injury-prone marksman Stephan El Shaarawy. Both men should be ready to feature against Juventus.

In many ways Milan are still rebuilding after the Massimiliano Allegri era, so this game will have even more pride at stake than usual because Allegri will be sitting on the Juventus bench. Clarence Seedorf’s impact was minimal after he replaced Allegri and it is only now that Pippo Inzaghi is putting a new stamp on the team. However, despite the air of optimism, Inzaghi has insisted that a win over Juventus would be ‘pulling off a miracle’. The former poacher is still in his managerial infancy and knows that a win would undoubtedly be his greatest coaching achievement to date.


The worry for Inzaghi is that his gung-ho Rossoneri are doing things the hard way. There have been over 2.5 goals in Milan’s last four Serie A games, going back into the end of last season. The defence looked jittery against Parma and may struggle to deal with the Juventus partnership of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente that proved deadly last season. Juventus, by contrast, are yet to turn on the fireworks but also yet to concede. Their opening day 1-0 win at Chievo could easily have been 3-0 and they were on the whole comfortable in beating a competitive Udinese 2-0 at home. The Old Lady have been built on solidity rather than flamboyance and the old adage states that titles are won by defence not attack. There have been less than 2.5 goals scored in 13 of Juventus’s last 16 Serie A games and they have kept a clean sheet in eight of their last nine.

A largely unpopular choice to replace the conquering Antonio Conte, Allegri still has a lot to prove, but Juventus’ back bone remains from last year when they beat Milan 2-0 at San Siro and triumphed 3-2 at home. The managerial transition has so far been smooth and Juventus will be full of confidence. Big-money summer signing Alvaro Morata is finally nearing full fitness after picking up a knee injury in his first training session with Juve. The Spaniard could be introduced in the second half to worry the Milan defence and may be a good bet for last goalscorer.


The pattern of the game will be decided by whether Milan can draw first blood. If they can shock Juventus and take the lead, the game will open up and could be a thriller. It would still be a massive test of Milan to hold on to a lead and Inzaghi’s side have shown little evidence of being able to close out a game ever since pre-season when they shipped goals regularly. Much more likely both sides will be scared to make a mistake and it will be a very tight, cagey affair that could come down to a single goal.


Betting Instinct tip – Back the draw in the Milan v Juventus match this weekend at +225 with, and if you fancy a score cast try 1-1 @ +550.


Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) has written about Serie A for Football Italia and wrote the book Up Pohnpei. He is also one part of of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger  John Foster. Follow Paul on Twitter.

Knack of the Bet: Spies, Salsa and Shaky Defences in the World Cup Quarter Finals

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final?

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final against Colombia?


Paul Watson of Back of the Net gives his not altogether serious previews of the World Cup quarter-finals. The odds are real but the logic behind the bets may be a little far fetched.

France v Germany Betting Odds:

France to qualify – 2.15

Germany to qualify – 1.67

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)

France were relieved to avoid an awkward, politically charged clash with Algeria, instead they line up against Germany – a nation they have never had any problems with. Thoughts will inevitably turn to 1982 and the infamous foul from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on French defender Patrick Battiston, which knocked him unconscious. Fortunately there’s unlikely to be any repeat as current German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer’s standard position is on the halfway line – a position from which he could easily open the scoring.

Expect a tense, brutal encounter that may need extra time to decide, again a first for clashes between these countries.

Key Clash – Griezmann v Mertesacker

Antoine Griezmann energised France when he came on as a substitute against Nigeria and his pace could worry Per Mertesacker whose fastest recorded time over 50 metres is more than six minutes.


Brazil v Colombia Betting Odds:

Brazil to qualify – 1.40

Colombia to qualify – 2.90

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Home advantage is a massive factor in World Cups. Brazil have already benefited from their right as hosts to win any penalty shootout and may try and make Colombia feel awkward by repeatedly mentioning how much effort they have gone to in putting on the World Cup.

Neymar is already challenging Pele’s reputation in Brazil and Luiz Felipe Scolari is likely to stick with Neymar given Pele’s poor scoring form over the last 26 years. Colombia’s danger man James Rodriguez could trouble Brazil’s back line. The press have nicknamed him James Bond, partly due to his anglicised name and partly for his tendency to survive attempts on his life before bedding glamorous yet ultimately dangerous women.

Back Rodriguez to score in 90 minutes (a goal that is), but the Colombians are unlikely to commit the faux pas of putting the hosts out.

Key Clash – Neymar v Fred

Neymar will look to continue his lethal form and looks a good bet for first scorer, but he will have to contend with Fred, who has shown he is capable of shutting down wave after wave of Brazilian attacks.

Betting Instinct tip – James Rodriguez to score at any time is 4.00 with


Argentina v Belgium Betting Odds:

Argentina to qualify – 1.53

Belgium to qualify – 2.45

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Tipped as dark horses ahead of the competition, Belgium are looking ever more equine, but they come up against a massive test in Argentina. Inspired by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, who averages a goal from every 100 chances, Argentina aren’t short of attacking threat, but they can look exposed at the back.

Argentina’s defence has looked shaky from set pieces, when teams run at them at pace, when teams pass it around slowly and during the national anthem, so backing both teams to score may be sensible.

The last time these two sides met at a competition was in 1986 when Argentina won 2-0 en route to glory, but very few of the players involved are expected to start, so little can be gauged from that.

Key Clash – Di Maria v Di Maria

Angel Di Maria could make all the difference for Argentina with his tireless runs from deep positions and his willingness to take defences on, but his efforts could be in vain if Angel Di Maria proves as profligate as he did for long periods against Switzerland.


Netherlands v Costa Rica Betting Odds:

Netherlands to qualify – 1.22

Costa Rica to qualify – 4.20

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The Netherlands would appear to be overwhelming favourites to reach the semi-finals, but you underestimate Costa Rica at your peril unless you have an unusually high opinion of Costa Rica, in which case you’re pretty much spot on.

Despite having a population of just 42, half of whom are in the World Cup squad, Costa Rica overcame Greece on penalties when Greece were no longer able to prevent shots being had on goal. Led by Bryan Ruiz, who appears to have been transformed from the pleasantly ineffectual player Fulham fans knew to a lethal goal getter, Costa Rica will look to reach the last four and force fans to finally look up where it is on a map.

Much of the Dutch attacking threat will come from Arjen Robben and his tested tactic of running into the box and allowing a stiff breeze to knock him over could be decisive.

Key Clash – Proto-Surrealism v Salsa Lizano

The Dutch will look to unsettle Costa Rica with fantastical imagery illustrating religious concepts and narratives, but expect Costa Rica to fight back with liberal lashings of a rich vegetable sauce with a tangy, spicy flavour.

Betting Instinct tip The Netherlands to win in regulation time is 1.50 with

Unfamiliar with decimal odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out.

Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) is the other half of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger John Foster. Paul wrote the book Up Pohnpei, and you can follow Back of the Net on FacebookTwitter or  Google+.