Zenit chasing consolation prize in Europa League

 

For Zenit Saint Petersburg reaching the Europa League quarter finals will be a mixture of achievement and disappointment. After finishing third in Group C of their Champions League group the Russian side were duly parachuted into the knockout-rounds of the Europa League, and to those who think this ruling is incredibly unfair there are caveats of consolation.

Firstly Zenit are the only club to fully capitalise on their second chance at continental glory and are now solely among those who have been here from the get-go, those who have played their peripheral talent in the group stages and seen their fixture list clog up in a ridiculously bloated tournament.

Additionally Andre Villas-Boas’ side have hardly had it straightforward in their two games thus far, having to dispense with a strong PSV and scrappy Torino to attain a last eight spot.

 

UEFA Europa League Outright Betting Odds:

Wolfsburg 3/1

Sevilla 9/2

Napoli 9/2

Fiorentina 5/1

Zenit 7/1

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of April 14th and are subject to change)

 

This Thursday evening it doesn’t get any easier with an away first-leg tie at holders Sevilla (3/5 with AllYoubet.ag – all odds are for qualification over the two-legged ties) whose slick, well-drilled menace is an intimidating prospect at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan having remained unbeaten there all season. The mighty Barcelona tried this weekend, but despite taking a two goal lead, failed like the rest.

This then is the tie of the round and throws up some intriguing questions. Can Ezequiel Garay contain Sevilla’s Colombian hitman Carlos Bacca whose record of 17 goals in 28 games has seen him heavily linked with half of Europe’s elite? Will Hulk find the top corner instead of the corner flag as he grows increasingly frustrated at a meticulously organised rearguard and attempts an audacious thirty yarder? My money is on no, with Zenit (6/5) having it all to do in the return fixture on April 23rd.

 

Did I just say that Zenit’s trip to Sevilla was the tie of the round? Okay granted Wolfsburg’s (13/20) hosting of Napoli (11/10) runs it close.

Die Wölfe have bared their fangs in 2014/15 and attacked all and sundry with such pace and ambition as to make Kevin Keegan espouse a bit of defensive caution. With de Bruyne ripping apart the Bundesliga, shrewd acquisition Andre Schurrle settling straight in, and Bas Dost firing on all cylinders they have a lethal combination up top to put the fear of a deity into any side, and domestically they remain the only club still tapping on Bayern’s shoulder. Their 4-1 thumping at goal-shy Everton earlier in this tournament, though, reveals that Wolfsburg can be laid bare and here they face just the man to exploit their all-out approach. He persists with a fat man’s goatee, speaks English in a Spanish/Scouse mash-up, and goes by the singular moniker of Rafa.

Benitez is the grandmaster of European chess and with his exit planned from Napoli this summer will be keen to remind football’s behemoths what he is capable of engineering on the biggest stages of all. Expect a nullification of Wolfsburg in the first encounter – the hoary old training ground exercise of attack versus defence – with all the drama lying ahead at Stadio San Paolo. Can Wolfsburg pull off another Inter away? Can Lord Bendtner rise again? Or will an untethered Napoli prove too much with the red-hot Higuian no longer isolated and suddenly enjoying the exquisite close company of Hamsik, Mertens, and Callejon? It is too tight to call.

 

Elsewhere the remaining quarters each contains a Ukrainian side and there’s every chance this year’s final on May 27th could see two Eastern European clubs battling it out – Zenit v Dynamo Kyiv in Warsaw with Putin chuckling maniacally at the potential for further ‘unrest’, anyone?

Dinamo (13/10) take on Fiorentina (11/20) in a match-up that’s hipster heaven and shouldn’t disappoint with both in devastating form. Viola coach Vincenzo Montella has implemented a possession game with a multifarious attack and his players have bought into it eagerly earning them the flattering nickname of ‘Little Barcelona’ into the bargain. This makes them slight favourites to progress but it’s hard to see the prolific Ukrainians failing to score at least once in the first leg with Andriy Yarmolenko in particular looking deadly at present. Conversely Serhiy Rebrov’s team also have a worrying habit of conceding cheaply and it is this which may ultimately decide the tie.

 

Lastly Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (9/10) face Club Brugge (4/5) and though the Belgians have goals aplenty in their armoury it is a favourable pairing for last season’s Ukrainian Premier League runners-up. Dnipro would be everybody’s favourite underdogs in this tournament were it not that pronouncing their name severs cartilage in your tongue and after their hard-fought dismissal of Ajax in the last 16 will now be viewing a semi-final spot with a degree of optimism. The mutual respect shown in the lead up to this game has been refreshing with both clubs admiring each other’s giant-killing.

It is sportsmanship that probably won’t last and certainly won’t be shared in the other three games.

 

Betting Instinct tip Sevilla and Wolfsburg both to win their first legs is 2.8 with Intertops.eu

Ste avatar STEPHEN TUDOR is editor of the Daisy Cutter, the football newspaper that only sometimes lies. He also writes  for  Sabotage Times, When Saturday Comes, Late Tackle and others. Follow him on Twitter.

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Inter v Napoli: A Serie A must-draw?

Mauro_icardi

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 AllYouBet.ag 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 Intertops.eu

 

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.

The Greatest Champions League Comebacks

Can José Mourinho emulate  Roberto di Matteo and mastermind another Chelsea comeback?

Can José Mourinho emulate Roberto di Matteo and mastermind another Chelsea Champions League comeback?

 

On Tuesday night, Borussia Dortmund will look to overturn a three-goal deficit when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

When you consider that the 4-1 recorded by a full-strength Dortmund side when the teams met in last seasons semis was considered a surprise, and the defensive problems suffered by Jürgen Klopp’s side, even a home win is no guarantee.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid Second Leg Betting Odds:

Borussia Dortmund win – 3.05

Real Madrid win – 2.08

Draw – 3.60

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Dortmund have spent most of the season with a makeshift defence, replacing real centre-backs Hummels and Subotić with a loud grunting sound (Durm) and a player devised to mock English commentators (Papathatopoulos). With that in mind it seems unlikely that they will keep alive their hopes of back-to-back finals, but stranger things have happened.

Below are three of the most memorable second-leg comebacks in the Champions League, and Dortmund progressing this week could trump them all.

 

 

Deportivo La Coruña 4-0 AC Milan (Aggregate 5-4), 2004 quarter-finals

You might find this hard to believe when looking at their current squad of Fulham rejects, over-the-hill ‘hard men’ and Kévin Constant, but a decade ago Milan were good. Really good.

They had won the Champions League the previous year and would go on to make the final in 2005 and 2007, and while they stumbled through the group stage they still had Kaká, Andrey Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo, all of whom had scored in the first leg after Walter Pandiani gave Depor a shock early lead.

The Spanish side were no slouches of course, making it through to the knockout stages after a scarcely believable 8-3 victory over Monaco and seeing off 2003 finalists Juventus in the last 16. But a three-goal deficit was too much, right?

Wrong. In fact it only took them 44 minutes to take an away-goals lead in the tie (note to ITV – that is what ‘getting half the job done’ means), before talisman Fran made sure with a late fourth. Ironically they then went on to lose in the semi-finals to Porto, who were joined in the final by the Monaco side who had shipped eight goals in Spain earlier in the season – José Mourinho no doubt thanked Depor manager Javier Irureta for giving his team an easy path to victory.

 

 

Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (AET, Aggregate 6-4), 2000 quarter-finals

It’s an oft-repeated myth that Chelsea came into being in 2003 when Roman Abramovich’s millions transformed them into title contenders. To make such an assumption would be to forget the 1999-2000 season, when the club splashed out around £20m on the likes of Gabriele Ambrosetti, Jes Høgh, Emerson Thome and Chris Sutton. And to think people said Alexey Smertin was a waste of money.

It was thanks to their existing players, however, that they made it through two group stages (yes folks, that wasn’t just a bad dream) and inflicted a first defeat of the competition on Barça, with two goals from Tore Andre Flo and one from Gianfranco Zola giving the Londoners every chance of making it through.

However you’ve heard the saying – the only things certain in life are death, taxes, and Barcelona beating Chelsea in the Champions League. Rivaldo and Luis Figo gave the hosts the upper hand at the Nou Camp, and while Flo pulled one back after an error from home goalkeeper Ruud Hesp, Dani’s 83rd minute header levelled the scores. There was still almost time for Barcelona to seal the deal within 90 minutes, but Rivaldo missed a late penalty.

The killer blow came in the 99th minute. Celestine Babayaro brought down a marauding Figo in the area, referee Anders Frisk (remember him, Chelsea fans?) sent the Nigerian off, and Rivaldo stepped up to score from the spot. Patrick Kluivert added a fifth five minutes later and that was that.

 

 

Chelsea 4-1 Napoli (AET, Aggregate 5-4), 2012 last 16

It took more than a decade, but finally Chelsea would have their chance to see what it was like to be on the other end of an epic European comeback. And the two legs could not have been more different, right down to the man in charge of the London club – the first-leg defeat in Italy was one of André Villas-Boas’ last, and return match was only the second outing of Roberto di Matteo#s tenure.

Needing a 2-0 win to progress, goals either side of half-time from Didier Drogba and John Terry put Chelsea within touching distance of the quarter-finals, but they knew from previous setbacks not to get too carried away. And indeed an impressive 20-yard strike from Gökhan Inler put the ball back in Napoli’s court.

But with 15 minutes left, Andrea Dossena handled in the box and Frank Lampard beat Morgan De Sanctis from the penalty spot. That took the game to extra-time, where an extended spell of Chelsea pressure ended with Branislav Ivanović smashing the ball into the roof of the net for the first of many crucial goals that the Serbian would score.

We all know what followed – an improbable run to the final and an even more improbable victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena after the German side could only muster one goal from their 35 shots. And if Chelsea fans believe in omens, the scoring in that first leg in Napoli was opened by Ezequiel Lavezzi, the same man who netted Paris Saint-Germain’s first in last week’s 3-1 first-leg victory. Can history repeat itself?

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Chelsea to make it through to this year’s semi-finals is 3.20 with GR88.com. Can they manage another famous comeback at Stamford Bridge?

GR88 will refund selected losing bets if a goal is scored in the 88th minute or later (in normal time) in any of the four quarter-final second legs this week. For full terms and conditions click here.

 

tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of  sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

Juventus or Napoli to win their Serie A top three clash this weekend?

Fernando Llorente celebrates opening the scoring in Juventus' 3-0 home win over Napoli earlier this season

Fernando Llorente celebrates opening the scoring in Juventus’ 3-0 home win over Napoli earlier this season

The biggest game happening in Italy this weekend is the clash of the sides sitting in first and third places in Serie A as Juventus look to continue their march towards their third successive top division title and Napoli wish to close the gap on Roma in second place, and the final automatic Champions League spot.

Napoli have lost just twice at the Stadio San Paolo all season in domestic football, while Juventus have been defeated just once on the road so I’m expecting this to be a close match between two good sides. GR88.com agree with this assessment of the game and they too are backing a tight game between the teams this Sunday evening.

Napoli v Juventus Odds:

Napoli – 2.74

Draw – 3.10

Juventus – 2.46

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

It will be a stretch for Napoli to catch Roma in second place in the league as they are six points behind them at this time having played an extra match. They had actually recently looked like catching them after an 81st minute Callejón winner at the Stadio San Paolo at the start of March but, after following that up with a 1-0 win at Torino, they threw away all their good work by losing 1-0 at home to Fiorentina. That loss was their second home defeat of the season in the league and while they have not lost too many at home in Serie A they have been massively inconsistent since November in front of their own fans. This has cost them as they have tried to move up to second place as they have lost two and drawn three of their last nine at home, while never recording the same result two games in a row.

Juventus will be confident about breaking that pattern for Napoli as they eased past them in November on home soil as they scored in the second, 74th and 80th minutes before seeing Angelo Ogbonna red carded seven minutes from time as they cruised to a 3-0 win. They also bring into this match a two month and 14 match unbeaten run that has seen them win each of their last four matches, including winning all of their last five games on the road without conceding a single goal. Confidence will be sky high for the league leaders, now can they all but assure a third straight title by ensuring their lead at the top of the table stays at least 14 points?

Juventus do not have the best of records away at Napoli following an eight match and 14 year winless streak that has seen Napoli win half of those games, drawing the other four. The last two meetings at the Stadio San Paolo have seen draws, but with Napoli being massively inconsistent at home over the last few months and having scored just two goals in their last three on home soil I cannot see them managing to get anything against the best side in the league this weekend. The fact that Juventus are available at better than evens odds makes them even more tempting too.

Back Juventus to beat Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo @ 2.46 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

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 GR88.com 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 Intertops.eu

 

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.

Napoli to provide Clarence Seedorf’s first proper test as Milan coach

Marek Hamšík could return to the starting line-up for Napoli

Marek Hamšík could return to the starting line-up for Napoli

A resurgent AC Milan side travel to face Napoli in the 23rd round of Serie A.

Milan, with a 3-1-1 record in their last five Serie A games and unbeaten in the league since the appointment of Clarence Seedorf, will look to continue their good form as they face a powerful Napoli. Rafa Benitez’s side occupy the coveted 3rd position on the league table but are coming off back to back losses to AS Roma and Atalanta, the 3-0 defeat to Atalanta being particularly deflating.

 

SSC Napoli v AC Milan Betting Odds

Napoli to win – 1.95

Draw – 3.40

Milan to win – 3.60

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

 

Napoli are fifteen points above their challengers, but just three points ahead of Fiorentina who will be closely watching this match as they continue their push for Champions League football. Manager Benitez will surely be looking to get his team back on track as soon as possible, most likely uncaging the recently benched Marek Hamšík, whose exclusion from matches are as puzzling as Napoli’s recent defeats.

Milan on the other hand are coming to terms with the views of Clarence Seedorf and have been playing better football than under Allegri. The attack, while not potent enough considering the weapons at their disposal, have started to play better generally and have managed to pull out some last minute wins. Mario Balotelli looks motivated, Pazzini is returning to form after an eternity on the injury table and January signing Keisuke Honda builds chemistry with his teammates every match.

 

Before the Seedorf appointment, Napoli would have been clear favourites for this match. However after recent developments, while Benitez’s men remain favoured by bookmakers, Milan’s chances of victory have increased.

Napoli’s defenders must be cautious to not make any individual errors against a side that has numerous talents capable of taking opponents one on one and creating scoring chances. Milan, meanwhile, will have to be on guard against a team that’s excellent on the counter, especially with slow defenders and a midfield that doesn’t always track back. Gonzalo Higuain, Napoli’s top scorer with 10 league goals, will be looking to feast on a pair of centre-backs who lack concentration.

 

With both teams stronger in attack than defence (with 32 conceded, Milan have a worse defensive record than 16th-place Chievo), a low-scoring game is unlikely. Napoli should have enough to win on home turf, but with Seedorf at the helm, Milan ought to run them close.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – Napoli to win 2-1 is 8.20 with GR88.com

______________________________________________

BdykNApCQAEQ_-tZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol, and numerous other sports sites

Napoli to end Arsenal’s Champions League hopes tonight?

Mesut Özil opens the scoring in the Arsenal 2-0 Napoli win earlier this season.

Mesut Özil opens the scoring in the Arsenal 2-0 Napoli win earlier this season.

This evening’s top of the table clash in Group F of the Champions League sees Arsenal top the group by three points ahead of Napoli and Borussia Dortmund but they could still find themselves playing in the Europa League in the new year. The Gunners need just a single point to ensure they are in the pot for the last 16 draw but that will see Napoli relegated to playing Thursday night football should Dortmund claim all three points against bottom of the group Marseille, who are still looking to claim their first point in the group stage.

What do GR88.com feel about this evening’s Napoli v Arsenal clash? Their betting odds suggest a close game with Napoli just favoured to take all three points, but with it being so close the game could swing either way and I feel that despite being the slight outsiders these odds favour Arsenal to claim at least the single point they need this evening.

Napoli v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Napoli to win – 2.42

Draw – 3.30

Arsenal to win – 2.72

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

Napoli have won three and lost two of their five Champions League matches so far with Arsenal defeating them at the Emirates at the start of October and their last game seeing an away defeat at Dortmund. They were beaten by two goals in both of those matches, but they have claimed single goal victories over Dortmund and Marseille in front of their own fans with 2-1 and 3-2 wins. This scoring plenty and conceding too many goals pattern has been a thorn in the side of Rafael Benitez and Napoli this season with them having conceded 13 goals in their last five matches home and away. Should Dortmund take all three points against Marseille Napoli will need to beat Arsenal by at least three goals if they are to overtake them at the top of the group and ensure their place in the knockout stages of the competition. The big question that hangs over the heads of the Italians is can they spot their leaking of goals to ensure they give themselves the best chance of a minimum three goal victory this evening?

Even if Napoli do somehow manage to stem the tide of goals against them lately they will face a tough task at the other end of the pitch too as Arsenal have been pretty impressive defensively this season. They have conceded just one goal in their last five matches and just two in eight games in both Premier and Champions Leagues, while Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey are both finding the net and creating enough goals to push the North Londoners to six wins and a draw in their last eight matches. Their confidence is sky high and with just a point needed I expect Arsenal to employ a conservative strategy in Italy this evening to see them progress.

Despite this slightly negative style of play from the visitors I fully expect them to take all three points back to the Emirates Stadium this evening as they possess the ability to keep Napoli at bay with their stoic backline and to grasp any opportunities provided by a leaky Napoli defence. Arsenal did just this in the smash and grab win in Germany over Borussia Dortmund that has put them in this position of power at the top of the group and I am backing the Gunners to do the same again this evening and win this Napoli v Arsenal clash.

My best bet for Napoli v Arsenal is back the away win @ 2.76 with GR88.com.

 

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

No guarantees for Arsenal ahead of must win Champions League clash

André Ayew

Arsenal will have to deal with the threat of Marseille star André Ayew (right)

 

It continues to be a fine season for Arsenal, despite the earlier pessimism among supporters, and tomorrow night they have the chance to put one foot into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

That word pessimism can be heavily associated with the Gunners in recent seasons and when they were drawn against last seasons’ runners-up Borussia Dortmund and big spending Napoli back in August, many feared the worst.

However Arsène Wenger has again proved many wrong, and victory at home to winless Marseille on Tuesday night could insure the North London club’s spot in the last 16.

Arsenal (1.22 with Bulldog777.com) are top of Group F after their superb victory in Dortmund last time out. They are expected to breeze past Marseille (15.00) who have found it tough at both domestic and European level this season, with even a draw (6.00) unlikely.

The French club are yet to pick up a point in the ‘group of death’ and are straggling behind big spending Monaco and Paris St Germain in Ligue 1.

But it may not be as straight forward for Aaron Ramsey and co as many people think.

While Les Phocéens have failed to make a mark on Group F, they have not been outclassed in the manner that many would assume.

Only once have they been beaten by more than one goal in their four games (away at Dortmund) and they should have got something from both of their clashes with Napoli, before being overpowered by Rafa Benitez’s side.

Forward Andre Ayew has three goals in four Champions League games this season and the Gunners may well rotate their stretched squad with the fixture list looking swamped from now until the new year.

Arsenal are favourites and for good reason, but keep the champagne on ice as Marseille would love to cause an upset at the Emirates and it should not be disregarded.

In the other fixture of Gameweek 5, Borussia Dortmund (1.62 with AllYouBet.ag) host Napoli (4.75) in a crunch game that could still massively affect Arsenal’s progress. A draw in Dortmund (4.00) would be the perfect result for Wenger’s side leaving Dortmund in real trouble of not qualifying, just months after reaching the final at Wembley.

Napoli beat 10-man Dortmund in Naples and sit three points clear of the Germans with two games to go.

A Napoli win would end Dortmund’s hopes of qualifying but if the hosts and favourites come out on top, Group F will be wide open.

Come Tuesday night Arsenal could be safely through to the knock out stages and highly rated Dortmund could be Europa League bound, but I have a feeling it may all go down to the final gameweek when the Gunners travel to Napoli and Marseille host Dortmund.

Betting Instinct tip: Arsenal 2-1 Marseille is 8.80 with GR88.com

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BRAD PINARD loves all things sport related, with a marinade of betting.