Arsenal scoring last in Napoli looks a Champions League moneymaker
Rafa Benitez’ donkey parable, to highlight the fact that whatever decisions he makes as a manager will always bring a degree of criticism, has brought some fun to the pre-match antics ahead of Napoli’s crunch Champions League group-stage clash with Arsenal.
Whether the tale will be seen in quite the same light as previous stories of priests on mountains of sugar or white bottles of liquid being milk remains to be seen, but what seems a bit more predictable is that his decisions will be decoded again after the visit of Arsenal to Naples.
In simple terms, Napoli have to better Dortmund’s result in the other Group F tie in Marseille to confirm a spot in the knockout stages, or if both win, Napoli would progress by beating Arsenal by three goals.
A future Mastermind topic this may be, but things will be much easier should the Premier League leaders win in Napoli and Arsenal’s odds of 15/8 to triumph look worth taking.
Although Arsene Wenger may opt for a bit of squad rotation as Arsenal only need a draw to confirm their position as Group F winners, he has taken his strongest available squad to Italy, minus injured pair Bacary Sagna and Lukas Podolski.
Arsenal’s away form this season is also among the best in world football, with eight victories in 11 games and a sole defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Napoli don’t start in the strongest form either, winning just one of their last five in all competitions and without a victory in their last two at home. The continued absence of chief playmaker Marek Hamsik is a blow to their cause too.
Hamsik is prominent in the Napoli stats this season for key passes per game and successful dribbles in the Champions League.
Napoli are marginal favourites in the Champions League odds at 13/8, with the draw on offer at 23/10.
A common trend among Napoli’s fixtures at the Stadio San Paolo is that they concede the last goal of the game, something which they have done in five of their last six at home in which the opposition have scored.
With Arsenal travelling to Manchester City next in the Premier League, there is a strong possibility that Wenger will mix things up, especially in midfield. It would be no surprise to see Tomas Rosicky start and this looks the perfect opportunity to reintroduce Theo Walcott to the starting line-up.
Walcott has come on in each of Arsenal’s last five fixtures in all competitions and his pace in behind against opposition that have to take a few risks must be an asset.
It is 2/1 that Walcott scores at any time in the 90 minutes and 7/1 that he completes the scoring.
But, with Walcott almost assured to be given no more than an hour, the safer bet to score the final goal of the game may be Aaron Ramsey at 7/1, who has done this in two of Arsenal’s last three road trips in all competitions.