Rafa Benitez is centre of attention as Napoli duel with Sampdoria
Napoli coach Rafa Benitez, who has apparently rejected a contract extension with his current club, must put distractions aside as his side prepare to welcome rivals Sampdoria to the Stadio San Paolo.
The Neapolitan team (odds-on at 4/9 with Coral to take all three points) have secured safe passage to the Europa League semi-finals and are also back in form in Serie A following two successive 3-0 victories in a row (and they are 10/1 to replicate that result).
Now just five points behind third spot Roma, who hold the final Champions League place, Napoli will also be looking over their shoulders at the Bluerchiati, who are just three adrift of their hosts.
Samp are, however, stuck in somewhat of a slump of late, with just one win in their past four league outings, and have failed in all seven of their last attempts to sink the Naples side.
Speculation has been rife over a job swap between opposition coaches Benitez and Sinisa Mihajlovic, but Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero quickly moved to quash the rumours.
Controversial Ferrero gave a perhaps too personal assessment of the reports, as he told Italian press ahead of the clash: “You all say [Mihajlovic] is leaving but I know nothing about it, there is no news… I could take Benítez, but I’d have to take him to a dietician first.” Ouch.
The Blucerchiati big-wig’s words could certainly come back to haunt him, as Napoli have smashed eight past the Genoa team during their last three tussles, so are a 13/8 shout to fire home three or more.
For the Naples outfit, top scorer Gonzalo Higuain is a superb 7/2 to strike first, though in-form skipper Marek Hamsik is also a great chance of 5/1 to deliver the final blow after hitting three in his last five appearances across all competitions.
The combination of fellow forward threats Manolo Gabbiadini (5/4 in the anytime market), facing his former club here, and Jose Callejon (6/5) may also be too much for the Blucerchiati to handle.
Samp, outside shouts at 11/2 to win, by comparison, have struggled to score recently, with just two goals in their previous four outings.
Having ended on even terms in the reverse, Mihajlovic’s men are 7/2 to hold out for a draw, though their top attacking trio, featuring Samuel Eto’o (9/4 to net anytime), who worked with former boss Benitez at Inter Milan, Brazilian-born Italy international Eder (8/1) and Colombian starlet Luis Muriel (9/1 to close the scoring) will all be sharpening their shooting boots.