Verdict: Arsenal win
Best Odds: 29/20
Arguably the glamour tie of this year’s Europa League quarter-finals, Arsenal will host Italian giants Napoli at the Emirates on Thursday night.
Starting with the hosts, coming off the back of a lackluster display in their 1-0 loss away at Everton last weekend, there is no doubt that Unai Emery will be glad to make a return to North London on Thursday night. Now sat outside of the top four in the Premier League and their performances on the road coming under increasing scrutiny, the Gunners have been largely reliant on their form at the Emirates this season. Putting three past French outfit Rennes to book their spot in the Europa League quarter-finals last month, the former PSG boss has seen his side now win their last seven matches at the Emirates across all competitions. Thursday’s hosts are also unbeaten in their previous eight European matches at home and Arsenal have also recorded four consecutive Europa League clean sheets on home soil.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in line to start for Arsenal against Napoli in their Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday.
Illness had restricted the forward to substitute appearances in Arsenal’s past two Premier League matches.
As for the visitors, failing to come past a 10 man Genoa over the weekend and now sat 20 points adrift of runaway Serie A league leaders Juventus, Napoli are destined for another second place finish in Italy’s top-tier. Showing some signs of a struggle at the back end of the season and picking up just two victories over their last seven matches across all competitions, Carlo Ancelotti will also be calling for his side to make a drastic improvement from their previous European outing. Slumping to a 3-1 loss against Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg last month, the Blues have failed to record a single clean sheet since the start of March. If Napoli are to pick up a much-needed early advantage on Thursday, then the former Real Madrid boss will know his side must improve on their inconsistencies away from the Stadio San Paolo. Registering just three wins in their 10 away matches in 2019, Gli Azzurri also slumped to arguably their worst showing of the season in their 2-1 loss away at Serie A relegation contenders Empoli earlier in the month.
Forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Simone Verdi have been included in Napoli’s squad following recent injury absences.
Insigne played the final quarter of Napoli’s 1-1 draw with Genoa last Sunday, having missed the previous three games with a thigh injury.
Key Factors to Consider-
- Arsenal and Napoli have met just twice before in Europe – home and away in the group stages of the Champions League in 2013-14. Arsenal defeated the Italian side 2-0 at Emirates Stadium, before losing by the same scoreline at the Stadio San Paolo.
- Arsenal have reached the quarter-final stages of European competition in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09/2009-10 in the Champions League.
- The Gunners knocked out CSKA Moscow at this stage of the Europa League last season (6-3 on aggregate) before falling to Atletico Madrid in the semi finals.
- Napoli have reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup/Europa League for the third time in their history. They fell at the semi-final stage in 2014-15, but won the competition in 1988-89 with a side featuring Diego Maradona.
- They have never beaten an English side away from home in European competition (P8 W0 D1 L7) – they have previously lost in such games against Burnley, Leeds United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
While Napoli may still hold a fearsome reputation across Europe, Thursday’s visitors have begun to stall at the back end of the season and Arsenal should be confident about capitalizing. Given the Gunners’ continued success at the Emirates, particularly in Europe, we’re backing Unai Emery’s side to come away with an early advantage.
Verdict: Arsenal win
Best Odds: 29/20
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