Napoli to pressure Roma in race to be best of the rest?

Gazzetta Dello Sport had some fun with their image of ‘Rudeboy Garcia’ and ‘Rapper Benitez’

In contrast to the Premier League and the Spanish top flight, Italy’s title race is as good as over. After scoring during a 2-0 win for the imperious Juventus at Milan, Carlos Tevez proclaimed the scudetto to be ‘three quarters ours.’ Even that statement could be construed as modest – The Old Lady are eleven points clear of second place Roma.

Whilst the title conversation may be a moot point, the race to be the best of the rest in Serie A is very much on and will be decided in large part when the aforementioned Roma travel to third place Napoli this Sunday evening. A mere four points separates the two.

Napoli v Roma Betting Odds

Napoli win – 

Roma win – 

Draw – 

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


Recently Rafa Benitez’s team has endured some disappointing draws in the league. Last weekend’s round of fixtures saw the Partenopei travel to struggling Livorno only to manage a 1-1 draw. A first half penalty converted by Belgian international Dries Mertens was cancelled out shortly after thanks to a fumble by ‘keeper Pepe Reina. Post-match the coach said he was, “disappointed with everyone,” whereas the team’s colourful owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis stated “I don’t want to talk about the game yesterday.” In their league game prior to this the spoils were also shared at home to Genoa.

Napoli’s fans and their film producing benefactor may hark back to the embryonic stages of the season in which the side won nine of their first eleven games. Nonetheless their record at the Stadio San Paolo remains remarkably strong with just one blot on the copy book; a 1-0 loss to Parma back in late November. Crucially their last game on the Ligurian Sea did not feature Gonzalo Higuaín. This was not trademark rotation from Benitez. The Argentine hitman was suspended along with centre back, Raul Albiol. ‘We do not depend on Gonzalo, but we do depend on determination,’ said Benitez at the weekend. The accuracy of that view is debatable and the issue could well be addressed in this summer’s transfer window.


The former Real Madrid striker will be available for the upcoming clash with Roma. He leads the way in goals and assists for the Neapolitans this season. El Pipita has found the net thirteen teams this league campaign and assisted his teammates on seven occasions. His unerring finishing, clever passing and strength on the ball is fundamental to the success of the team. His presence invariably brings the best out of the attacking triumvirate that feature behind him, ensuring their enterprising play has an effective outlet. The forward was on target the last time Napoli met Roma in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final. He helped them to a 3-0 (agg 5-3) win to take Napoli to their fifth domestic cup final.

Roma’s Rudi Garcia was undoubtedly frustrated by that loss but the French tactician can take solace from their previous league meeting which ended in a 2-0 win at the Olimpico. That victory was in the halcyon days of the Giallorossi’s ten straight wins at the beginning of the campaign. However, they had their own dour draw to reflect upon last weekend as Inter held them 0-0 at home.

Stand-in captain Daniele De Rossi is suspended having been punished retrospectively for punching Mauro Icardi in an ill tempered stalemate, and Francesco Totti is unlikely to feature as he continues to regain fitness following an injury. On the plus side Brazilian full backs Maicon and Dodo will be vying to return to a back line which remains the stingiest in Europe’s major leagues with Leandro Castán and Mehdi Benatia imperious in central defence. The latter has attracted admiring glances from some of Europe’s elite clubs, while the same applies to the young Bosnian central midfielder Miralem Pjanić who plays with a composure and intelligence indicative of someone ten years his senior.

Both Napoli and Roma have comparable styles characterised by short passing, possession, attempting to get beyond the opposition’s line of defence and controlling the ball in the opponent’s half. Both have free kick specialists and relish the chance to attack set pieces. Can punters, therefore, expect each side to nullify the other? That is arguably where the smart money will go, with both teams just over evens to win the game. Yet a returning Higuain could be telling. Benitez should be emboldened by the gap between Napoli and fourth place Fiorentina (seven points). The onus is on the Azzurri to pressure Roma in the race for automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League.


Betting Instinct Tip – With Roma’s formidable defensive record and Napoli netting just once in each of their last two games, less than 2.5 goals can be backed at 2.00 with


Jack Howlett avatarJACK HOWLETT spends most of his time following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of West Ham United. To find some solace he takes a keen interest in foreign leagues, especially Italy’s Serie A. Follow Jack on Twitter @Jack_Howlett.


Mid-table Milan to Restore Pride Against Rampant Roma

Mario Balotelli has been crucial to Milan's resurgence after a slow start

Mario Balotelli has been crucial to Milan’s resurgence after a slow start

The last time AC Milan faced Roma at the San Siro it was a mild May evening and the 2012-13 Serie A season was drawing to a close. Milan were on the cusp of confirming a Champions League finish while Roma were set for an unremarkable top half place under caretaker manager, Aurelio Andreazzoli. A goalless draw was distinguished by two red cards and the unedifying sight of a stoppage for racist abuse aimed towards Milan’s Mario Balotelli. The fortunes of both clubs have diverged since but the result when they meet again is likely to be the same, with the spoils shared once more.

AC Milan v AS Roma betting odds

Milan to win – 2.26

Draw – 3.10

Roma to win – 3.05

(Odds provided by are current as of today but subject to change.)

The Rossoneri are enduring their worst start to a league campaign since 1981-2 when the team was relegated. History repeating itself is improbable but this is a disjointed side led by the beleaguered Massimiliano Allegri. Their first 13 games this season returned a meagre 14 points, drawing the ire of the hardcore in the Curva Sud.

Following a 1-1 home draw against Genoa last month, Milan’s Ultras blockaded the team bus’ exit from the San Siro in protest. The iconic Kaka and club stalwart Christian Abbiati eventually relented, engaging with the supporters to ease the situation. Adding to the soap opera there has been a public power struggle for the day to day running of the club between the owner’s daughter, Barbara Berlusconi and the current vice president Adriano Galliani. This resulted in the latter’s resignation which was duly rejected by Barbara’s father, Silvio.

Recovering from a sluggish start may well be Milan and Allegri’s forte, however, as it was the hallmark of their previous season. Those signs could be revealing themselves again. After six weeks without a win they managed a 3-1 victory away to Catania. From a one goal deficit the spine of the team finally showed some resolve. Goals from Riccardo Montolivo, Mario Balotelli and Kaká provided a comfortable win. The returning Brazilian who now has 99 goals from Milan has injected some desperately needed creativity, while the talismanic Balotelli rescued a 2-2 draw last weekend at newly promoted Livorno. Meanwhile there is optimism that the prodigiously talented Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio will feature more following injuries.

Reaching the glided Champions League places seems unlikely for Milan but there are loftier ambitions in the capital where Roma broke Italian football history to record 10 wins from their first 10 league games this season. The Giallorossi sold Erik Lamela, Dani Osvaldo and Marquinhos but their loss was mitigated by the club’s most important summer business, the appointment of the urbane Frenchman, Rudi Garcia as manager. Canny acquisitions followed in the form of Kevin Strootman, Gervinho and Mehdi Benatia. Quick, transitional football with a watertight defence has been their strength thus far. A vintage season from their all time top goalscorer Francesco Totti hasn’t hurt either.

At 37 years of age it is remarkable how reliant Roma remain on Totti for that touch of brilliance and invention in tight games- his absence through injury coincided with four consecutive draws, halting their astonishing start to the campaign. Il Capitano returned to the bench last weekend for a home tie versus Fiorentina where Mattia Destro, fresh from returning from injury himself, scored the winner and immediately raced to the bench, embracing Totti.

Despite remaining unbeaten, Roma are now second in the division with Juventus three points clear. A first Scudetto since 2001 may be a step too far for the Romans but with a stingy defence, a well balanced midfield and the attacking intent of Gervinho and Alessandro Florenzi, this is undoubtedly an exciting side.

Monday night sees ninth clash with second. The slowly recovering Milan are without a home win since beating Udinese in October. Coincidentally Roma have not won away since travelling to Udine in October. A draw seems the best bet with both teams to get on the scoresheet.

Betting Instinct tip – Milan 1-1 Roma is 7.00 with

Jack Howlett avatarJACK HOWLETT spends most of his time following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of West Ham United. To find some solace he takes a keen interest in foreign leagues, especially Italy’s Serie A.