Napoli host Lazio for crunch CL spot decider as Benitez bows out
Rafa Benitez is preparing to take charge of his last, and potentially most important, game as Napoli coach with his side due to square-up to Lazio in a vital Champions League spot decider.
The apparent Real Madrid managerial target told press recently, after months of speculation: “My contract expires after the Lazio game and my cycle ends here.”
The former Liverpool boss will not want the end of that two term cycle, then, which includes a 2014 Coppa Italia crown, to be remembered for the Little Donkeys finishing fourth, and out of the Champions League places.
As it stands, Napoli (21/20 with Coral to win) can snag third spot on head to heads, should they sink Lazio (11/4) at the Stadio San Paolo, which is expected to be in full voice for the final duel of the season.
Currently, the Eagles sit three points ahead of Benitez’s boys, but could miss out should they lose to the Campania club for the second time this campaign, with goal difference not the decider in Italy if teams end on even terms.
Unbeaten in their last five Serie A games against Lazio, who have suffered a disappointing dip in form at the business end of the season with successive cup and league losses to rivals Juventus and Roma, Napoli should be feeling confident.
Argentina goal machine Gonzalo Higuain netted what could now be a crucial winner against the Eternal City outfit when these two teams last met in Rome for a league tussle, and is 9/2 to fire home first again.
Having grabbed six goals in his past three Serie A outings against the Eagles, including a hat-trick and brace, Higuain is also great value at 6/1 to score two or more.
Joining the Southern Italian side’s star striker, will also be a superb supporting cast including the likes of Spanish star Jose Callejon (7/4 in the anytime market) and Italy international Lorenzo Insigne (15/8) and skipper Marek Hamsik (15/8), ensuring Napoli have a strong attacking roster at their disposal.
Lazio, meanwhile, need only a draw at 9/4 to claim third place, but relying on that could be their undoing.
The Romans must rally to restore confidence after defeat to the Giallorossi, and must not let the chance for Champions League football slip out of their grasp.
Stefano Pioli can take heart from his team’s excellent recent record on the road in Serie A, though, with just one away loss from the last seven.
First choice marksman Miroslav Klose (6/4 to strike anytime) has emerged as an injury doubt, but Serbian sharpshooter Flilp Djordjevic (15/8) and talented Brazilian young-gun Felipe Anderson (7/1 to draw first blood) are more than able to shoulder the goal burden.
Top betting tip: Despite the exciting array of top forwards on display Higuain @ 9/2 to score first looks the tastiest tip