Arsenal vs. Napoli
Europa League: Thursday 11-04-2019 at 20:00 UST (Emirates Stadium)
Odds: Arsenal: 2.40, Draw: 3.50, Napoli: 3.10
Free Europa League picks Arsenal vs. Napoli
Arsenal welcomes Napoli on Thursday in the first leg of their quarterfinal confrontation. The Gunners come from a 1-0 loss away to Everton last Sunday which stopped a three-game winning streak. Nevertheless, Arsenal are in relatively good form as they have won six of their last nine games. This good run of form is notably due to the numerous home games that Arsenal have played in that stretch. Indeed, Arsenal are much more dangerous at home than in away games. For instance, the Gunners post the third-best Premier League home record. They have won 14 games at the Emirates and only lost one, against Manchester City in August. This trend has carried on to final stage of the Europa League. Indeed, the Gunners have scored six goals at home and only one away, against Stade Rennais. Offensively, the London club has been performing well: they have scored 83 goals between the Europa League and the Prem’. However, they still struggle in defence and might find difficult to contain Napoli’s attack on Thursday night. Given the importance of away goals in European competitions, it will be vital for the Gunners to have a good defensive performance.
Napoli has slowed down since their 2-1 loss to Juventus at the beginning of March. Indeed, that game put an end to their Scudetto claim and may have demobilised Gli Azzuri. Since then, they have collected eight points out of fifteen possible in the Serie A. Additionally, they have lost to 18th-placed Empoli three weeks ago and didn’t manage a win against Genoa last weekend. They however, still qualified for the quarterfinals of the Europa League during that period. Given the lack of competition in the Serie A, it is possible that Gli Azzuri will focus on the Europa League. Their qualification over Red Bull Salzburg was not particularly impressive. On aggregate, Napoli won 4-3 and were arguably lucky in a second leg they lost 3-1. Nevertheless, Napoli are a very good team, both on the offensive and defensive end. Indeed, they have the third-best records in Serie A, with 58 goals scored and 27 conceded. Their attack’s combination of pace and power could be their main asset in their double confrontation against Arsenal.
Unai Emery has not been very consistent in his line-up selections this season. However, given the importance of keeping a clean sheet at home, the Spanish tactician might opt for a 3-4-1-2. Petr Cech has been regularly starting Europa League games and should begin in goals Thursday. The centre-back line should be very experienced as it will probably be composed of Sokratis, Mustafi and Koscielny. Bellerin is still recovering from a knee injury and should be replaced by Maintland-Niles as right wing-back. The left wing-back will probably be Monreal who will bring his versatility and expertise. Xhaka and Ramsey could be the midfield pair behind the maestro Mesut Özil. If Emery does go for this fairly attacking line-up, Aubameyang and Lacazette could start together. Indeed, both men have great chemistry and have combined for 35 goals and 14 assists this season.
Napoli will probably start in Ancelotti‘s favoured 4-4-2. Ospina suffered a head injury three weeks ago and will have to leave his spot to Meret in goals. From left to right, the defence should be composed of Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly and Ghoulam. Allan and Fabian Ruiz have been a successful tandem in the midfield and should start together. On the right wing Callejon will hope to use his pace to unbalance Arsenal’s defence. The Spaniard has very good vision and passing qualities. He has notably created 12 assists for his team this season and should be a poison for Monreal. The skillful Zielinski should start on the left wing. The attack for Napoli will be lead by Milik and Mertens who have combined for 27 goals in Serie A. Insigne will probably come in as a luxury substitute. His technique and low centre of gravity will be very difficult to handle, especially by tired defenders.
Free Europa League schedule Napoli vs. Arsenal
FiveThirtyEight has classified this double confrontation as a 50-50 tie. Both teams have proven that they are capable of the best but also of mediocrity. Arsenal’s record at home could hint at a Gunners’ win – which I hope for. However, they lack discipline in defence and could concede a crucial away goal. Unai Emery has been successful in the Europa League in the past and his experience will be of great value. However, Ancelotti is also a very good manager and tactician. His team certainly has the quality to win this game and even the competition. Nevertheless, I still see Arsenal winning this game 2-1.