Arsenal have one foot in the Europa League semi-finals but now face what is likely to be their toughest test in this year’s competition so far. 2-0 up after the first leg, the Gunners travel to Napoli’s San Paolo Stadium to face the second place Serie A side who have lost just once at home this season.
But confidence will be high amongst the Arsenal squad after that mightily impressive performance at the Emirates in the first leg was followed up with just a second league win on the road this calendar year, against Watford on Monday night.
Unai Emery’s side know that if they can find the net in Naples, their opponents will have to score a minimum of four times in 90 minutes to go through. Yes Arsenal have struggled of late away from home in the Europa League, losing on their travels to both BATE Borisov and Rennes in the knockout stages, but that 1-0 defeat to BATE remains the only Europa League away game that the North Londoners have failed to score in so far.
In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the match winner at Watford, Arsenal boast a man with four goals and an assist in the competition to date. It may well be Alexandre Lacazette, rested against the Hornets, who leads the line from the start on Thursday night and the Frenchman has seven goals in all competitions since the turn of the year. He’s 21/10 to score anytime in this match.
Napoli will almost certainly pose a sterner challenge than they did at the Emirates a week ago, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side have only been beaten once in 22 home matches this season, that solitary defeat coming against run away leaders Juventus.
Knocked out of the Champions League in a group that contained Liverpool and PSG, Napoli were still formidable at home, drawing with the French champions 2-2 and beating the Merseysiders 1-0. That scoreline however wouldn’t be enough for the Italians to progress from this tie and they have actually only won five home matches this season by a margin that would see them go through without the requirement for extra time.
Arsenal will fancy their chances of grabbing a goal in this one, having only failed to score in three of their 22 away matches in all competitions this season. The aforementioned trip to BATE and Premier League games at West Ham and Everton.
While Napoli’s backline is marshalled by one of the most highly rated defenders in Europe, Kalidou Koulibaly, the men from Naples have failed to keep clean sheets in 10 of their 22 home games this campaign. Given their need to take the game to their opponents, Arsenal will get opportunities on the break. Whether they can take one of them could be the decisive factor in this tie.
The Napoli goal threat will likely come from Belgian Dries Mertens and Poland’s Arkadiusz Milik. Although Mertens has only scored three times since the start of 2019, having netted 12 in the first half of the season. Milik on the other-hand has been consistently finding the net and with 16 Serie A goals and two in the Europa, he has the potential to cause Arsenal problems on the night.
Everything points to an entertaining encounter at the San Paolo Stadium and if Napoli can score the first goal, it could be an anxious night for the Gunners. But should the visitors find the net themselves, it will be an uphill task for the Serie A side and one that they might not quite pull off.
Napoli vs Arsenal team news
Seventeen points adrift of Juventus at the top but seven points clear of Inter Milan in third, Napoli will likely be making the Europa League their priority now and will be as close to full strength as they can be for this one.
Raul Albiol and Amadou Diawara remain long term absentees but otherwise Ancelotti must decide who to pick in attack with Mertens, Milik and Lorenzo Insigne all in contention.
For Arsenal, Greek defender Sokratis is available again as he serves a two game domestic ban for collecting 10 yellow cards. Unai Emery is expected to include the defender from the start as part of the three man backline that has worked well in recent weeks.
Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette are tipped to return to the side after being substitutes against Watford, while cup goalkeeper Petr Cech will be restored between the sticks.
Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are all ruled out through injury while Lucas Torreira is reportedly carrying a slight groin strain. However the Uruguayan midfielder is expected to be fit to play in Naples.
Napoli vs Arsenal form (most recent result last)