With a Champions League place via the Premier League far from certain, Arsenal may need to put all their eggs into the proverbial Europa League basket, despite being handed the hardest possible tie against Napoli.
The Gunners were outclassed against Everton, who not only winning the game to nil, but had 29 shots on goal compared to Arsenal’s nine. A repeat performance from Unai Emery’s men would undoubtably see them knocked out and dash any hopes of his side winning silverware this term.
Arsenal have lost the first in each of their knockout games this season before eventually beating BATE and Rennes. If that trend continues, Arsenal would have a mountain to climb to beat a Napoli side who have lost just once at home in the Europa League in their last 16 games.
However, Arsenal are no slouches themselves at home in the Europa League and have just lost once at the Emirates in the competition’s history, winning all but one game this campaign. In fact, Arsenal have kept clean sheets in 4 of their 5 Europa League home matches this season and are 49/20 to repeat that feat on Thursday night.
Arsenal have failed to score just once in the Europa League this season – a 0-0 draw with Sporting, whilst Napoli have managed just five clean sheets in Serie A away from home. Arsenal are 4/5 to score the first goal.
Arsenal, who don’t play again in the Premier League until Monday, are likely to field all their big hitters. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has four goals and an assist in the Europa League so far, whilst Alexandre Lacazette has one of each. Meanwhile, Arsenal have had more different scorers than any other side in this season’s Europa League (12) and there’s plenty of value to be found on the anytime goalscorer market.
Unai Emery’s reluctance to start Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is frustrating for the Arsenal fans and the Gabonese forward is 18/5 to justify his selection by scoring first.
With Napoli seven points clear of third in Serie A, but 20 behind leaders Juventus, it is likely they too will field their strongest side. Like Arsenal, this is their only realistic chance of a trophy this season.
Arek Milik is the dangerman with 16 Serie A goals and two Europa League goals to his name, though Arsenal would be foolish to forget about the ever-dangerous Dries Mertens who has three in his last four for Gli Azzurri. Both players are 31/20 each to score anytime.
Arsenal fans searching for some positive news need look no further. Napoli have only won 1 of their last four away matches, and just one of their 5 European away games this season. They went down 3-1 to Salzburg in the last round of the Europa League.
One of Thursday night’s key battles will be Alexandre Lacazette vs. Kalidou Koulibaly. Arsenal’s in form striker will come up against one of the steadiest defenders in Europe, and the winner of that match-up may well determine the tie going into the second leg.
Arsenal need to win on the night to stand any chance of progressing through to the Europa League semi-finals – it’s too close to call. If picking a winner for Thursday night’s game between Arsenal and Napoli seems too challenging, a BTTS bet looks like good value. BTTS is the safest bet for Thursday and can be backed at 57/100.
Arsenal vs Napoli team news
Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka remain injury doubts ahead of the visit of Napoli. Koscielny missed Sunday’s defeat to Everton while Granit Xhaka is still suffering from a groin injury he picked up on the last international break for Switzerland.
Unai Emery was none the wiser as to when the duo may be back in action: “I don’t know, Koscielny had to come back today, but yesterday we knew it wasn’t possible. I want to be positive for Thursday, but it depends on how he recovers. For Xhaka it is the same thing, he is a doubt for Thursday.”
Misses next match if booked: Mkhitaryan, Xhaka
Lorenzo Insigne and Faouzi Ghoulam both returned to the Napoli squad at the weekend in their side’s 1-1 draw with 10-men Genoa and look set to feature against the Gunners.
Misses next match if booked: Mario Rui, Milik
Arsenal vs Napoli predicted line ups
Arsenal XI: Leno, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Napoli XI: Karnezis, Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Ghoulam, Callejon, Allan, Fabian, Insigne, Mertens, Milik
Arsenal vs Napoli Europa League form
BATE 1-0 Arsenal
Arsenal 3-0 BATE
Rennes 3-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 3-0 Rennes
Zurich 1-3 Napoli
Napoli 2-0 Zurich
Napoli 3-0 Salzburg
Salzburg 3-1 Napoli