Napoli knowhow will finally get them British win in Swansea showdown
The best Napoli have managed on English soil since becoming a force in Serie A again is a score draw at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. On all their other visits, they have lost by at least a two-goal margin. How will they fare in Wales?
Swansea City may play with style, but Garry Monk’s men are far from as illustrious as Arsenal, City, Chelsea and Liverpool – the current top four in the Premier League. The Swans host Napoli in Europa League action in the last 32 first leg.
Rafa Benitez’s side – Coppa Italia finalists and the third best in Serie A this season – start as 6/5 favourites to win this match in spite of their poor record in England. Napoli are 10/1 behind Italian league leaders Juventus and Tottenham to lift the Europa League this term.
There are no previous meetings to go on but, if you use how Swansea have got on recently against sides from the Premier League’s top six as a guide, then a pattern emerges.
Spurs and City have both come to the Liberty Stadium in 2014 and put three goals past their hosts. The Swans’ last outing was away to Everton in the FA Cup and they too scored that many times.
A common denominator is Swansea scoring, but losing to top sides by at least the odd goal at home. This is only reinforced by 2-1 and 4-1 victories for Arsenal and Manchester United at the Liberty earlier in the season. Napoli to win and both teams to score looks the best bet, then, at 13/4.
Interim Swans head coach Monk is 12/5 to pull off a shock result over the vastly more experienced manager Benitez. It’s also 12/5 for this first leg to be drawn.
Predecessor Michael Laudrup recruited both midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and forward David N’Gog before being sacked earlier in February. Both these players boast unbeaten records against Napoli after turning out twice for Liverpool against them in the 2010/11 group stage.
Neither N’Gog nor Shelvey, who is a doubt with a hamstring injury, are prolific goal-scorers, but know what needs to be to done to win against this opposition. If you fancy their chances, back them at 9/4 and 11/4 to score anytime respectively.
Those with long memories will rightly point out that Anfield win came because of an inspired Steven Gerrard, but the fact Monk has players available who have beaten Napoli is a crumb of comfort for European minnows Swansea. As they are still without Michu, be sanguine about their chances.
Jonathan de Guzman has two 2-0 losses to this opposition on his CV whilst at parent club Villarreal. The Holland international scored in the Swans’ last outing and you can back him at 4/1 to do so again and end his hoodoo.
Benitez has a doubt over the fitness of Napoli top-scorer Gonzalo Higuain because of a back problem. Goran Pandev is on hand to deputise, but has never found the net against English opposition in 10 attempts. Higuain is 11/10 to score anytime if he plays and Pandev is a 7/4 shot.