Europa League – Napoli v Arsenal – Quarterfinal Round
After a quick turnaround, Europa League is back with leg two of the quarterfinal matches this week. We’re going to take a quick look at those matchups this week, and after last week’s leg one action, most of the matchups are likely settled, at least per the various odds published around the internet.
Up first, we’re going to take a look at the matchup between Italian club Napoli hosting English club Arsenal. Their leg two match kicks off from Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Italy on Thursday, 18 April at 9:00pm GMT (3:00pm EST).
What Happened Leg One
Last week’s leg one match from Emirates Stadium couldn’t have gone better for the hosts. Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring for the Gunners with a beautiful goal in the 15th minute, with multiple teammates involved to get him into prime scoring position:
Then, less than 10 minutes later, the Gunners were handed another goal when the ball deflected off of Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, going into the books as an own goal and giving the Gunners a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead:
That was all the Gunners needed, with Petr Čech and the Arsenal defense keeping the Italians at bay for the rest of the game. Despite leading in possession for the match, Napoli was outshot 2-to-1 during the match, and had 75% of their shots deemed off target (compared to 35% for Arsenal).
What the Experts are Saying
After entering leg one with an equal chance of advancing, Arsenal’s win has definitely improved their chances of reaching the semifinals and a matchup with the winner of Valencia and Villarreal. After the victory, their advancement odds increased to 88% (up from 50%), with Napoli’s 13% likely owed to them playing host for this match. As such, Napoli is favored to win the match (43% to 31%), but it will need to be a big win to overcome the two-goal deficit that they face.
What We’re Thinking
This matchup is now Arsenal’s to lose, and they can advance even if they lose the individual match. Napoli has only lost once at home all season (a 2-1 loss to Juventus in Serie A play), but not grabbing even one away goal last week could come back to hurt them if they let this one go to tiebreakers. A win for Arsenal would likely improve their chances of advancing to the final, potentially setting up a intra-English final against the current favorite Chelsea.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves just a bit. The clubs will be full strength for this one, though Napoli will have had an extra day of rest from their prior league match. Whether or not that matters remains to be seen, as both clubs will be playing their fourth match since April 7th. Arsenal has a little bit of a deeper squad, which should help overcome any tired legs. I think the Gunners advance.
Until next time…