Considering Arsenal have pretty much zero chance of winning their own domestic league, the size of the opportunity here cannot be understated. It’s the same for Napoli, whose excellent form has landed them in a comfortable number two position of the Serie A, even if Juventus are running away with the top spot.
However, neither can claim to have had the best recent performances, as Napoli failed to win their last two outings. There are also parallels in their last Europa League games, as each had back-and-forth outings in the Round of 16 but just about managed to pull off the victory with an aggregate score of 4-3. Still, this game represents a fresh start of sorts. It’s a chance to show off each team’s significant skills without previous games having a direct impact on their overall success – that is, at least, until the second leg.
Arsenal vs Napoli Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 Napoli
These are two teams that have not only had similar results as of late but also sides with similar abilities and potential. You could certainly argue that a draw might be the most likely outcome. However, we simply don’t think that’s the kind of style either will want to play. And each will be gunning hard – no pun intended – for the advantage heading into the second leg. There’s not much in it but based on the home advantage, which has been vital under Emery, we think Arsenal will just about have the edge here, and manage a 1-0 victory.
Our recommended tip: Arsenal win
We already mentioned that Napoli are enjoying greater success in their domestic league than Arsenal currently are. The away side sit in the runner-up spot of the Serie A standings. Meanwhile, Arsenal are fifth in the Premier League table and fighting it out for a fourth place finish and the chance to qualify for the Champions League. However, here in this Europa League contest, Arsenal remain the bookmakers’ pick to win – although it is a close one. Taking this into consideration, alongside our predicted scoreline, we recommend that you back the favourites to victory to get low-risk 27/20 odds at Ladbrokes.
One of the most exciting things about the Europa League is that it throws together great teams who rarely get the chance to meet. And that’s exactly the case here, as Arsenal and Napoli have only ever faced on two occasions. These took place back in the group stages of the 2013/14 Champions League. Unfortunately, if you’re hoping that will help illuminate the likely outcome for this game, all it does is tell us what we already know: these two are very closely-matched. One game went 2-0 to Arsenal and the other ended by the same scoreline in the favour of Napoli. Perhaps here, one will finally gain a clear advantage.
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Players to watch: Aaron Ramsey & Arkadiusz Milik
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey
While Aaron Ramsey wasn’t enough to make the difference in Arsenal’s recent loss against Everton, the fact that they improved so much when he – alongside Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang – entered the game tells you so much about both of their importance to the team. Each could be our player to watch here. However, we’re going with Ramsey for the sheer accuracy in both his attacks and passes in their previous game against Newcastle. That kind of precision will be vital here.
Napoli: Arkadiusz Milik
Considering that Arkadiusz Milik not only managed to score in both legs of their previous Europa League match-up against Salzberg but that his goal in the second leg saved them from falling to an astonishing comeback from their opponents, there’s little doubt he’s the one to watch here. That’s not to mention the fact he scored both those goals within the opening 15 minutes. So, watch out for that flurry at the start of the game.