Arsenal hold a two-goal advantage over Napoli, although their away form in the Europa League might come back to bite them at the San Paolo.
Arsenal did themselves massive favours by scoring two goals in the first leg of their quarter-final clash against Napoli in London. Goals from Aaron Ramsey and an own goal from Kalidou Koulibaly settled the score, although the Gunners need to dig deep and protect this lead when they visit Napoli at the San Paolo.
In preparation for the Napoli clash, Arsenal played Watford in their Premier League away game and won. Fans did heave a sigh of relief at their side winning an away game in the league as well as keeping a clean sheet in the process. But Napoli are of a different quality altogether, and Arsenal’s away form in the Europa League this season could come back to bite them, given they have lost the last two games on their travels to BATE and Rennes.
Carlo Ancelotti will want his Napoli side to show aggression right from the start, as it could be a possible way to score early and put pressure on Arsenal. The manager did state he was happy with his team’s performance in London, while also citing his players were more superior physically than Arsenal. Despite those claims, Petr Cech had only two saves to make although Napoli did attack well at times.
However, overturning a two-goal deficit will have its difficulties, and Napoli will be hoping to count on their home support to beat the Gunners. They must have studied well on the major flaws Arsenal possess when travelling on the road, but they should be wary of the opposition’s attackers for one away goal, in all probabilities, could kill the tie for Napoli.
Team News & Tactics
Ancelotti has a near full squad to choose from for the Arsenal game, although Amadou Diawara and Raul Albiol are out. The duo have been injured since March and January respectively. Otherwise, the manager has all his other players available for selection and will likely choose a strong lineup to thwart Arsenal.
After last week’s performance, Ancelotti has a lot of tinkering to do with his squad and could make some changes. Right-back, Hysaj could be replaced with Kevin Malcuit the likely preference there. Last week, Ancelotti started Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne up front in London, something that did not work out. Arkadiusz Milik could be the man to replace either of those forwards.
Alex Meret will continue in goal ahead of David Ospina, who featured in the league game at the weekend. Nikola Maksimovic and Koulibaly will keep their places in central defence, as will Mario Rui at left-back. Ancelotti will keep his trust in his midfield four of Allan, Jose Callejon, Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Meret; Malcuit, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejon, Allan, Ruiz, Zielinski; Milik, Insigne
Unai Emery might have stumbled upon a formula last Monday on how to field his sides for away matches. The shape consisted of Mustafi at right-back while Monreal played left-back. Alternatively, the formation could have been to accommodate some players while resting some for the Napoli game. However, due to the availability of Sokratis, Emery could go back to a three-man defence.
Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal could keep their places in the lineup while Mustafi could make way for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who made a cameo appearance against Watford. Sead Kolasinac was also absent from the Watford game, and he too could come back into the side.
Emery will make a late call to select his central midfielders, as Granit Xhaka made his return on Monday, although Lucas Torreira did suffer a knock. Emery confirmed it, but also said he could be available for Napoli. Matteo Guendouzi is an option, while Aaron Ramsey is a guaranteed starter.
Mesut Ozil and Petr Cech are also in line for recalls, while Alexandre Lacazette, who was benched for the Watford clash is a sure starter as well.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang
- Napoli’s only previous home match against Arsenal was in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage, which they won 2-0.
- Arsenal’s last away match in Italy was at the Last 16 stage of last season’s Europa League, that ended in a 2-0 win against AC Milan.
- Napoli have been eliminated in the last eight occasions they’ve lost the first leg of a major European knockout match.
- Arsenal’s 2-0 win in the first leg was the 17th occasion the Gunners have won the first leg of a major European knockout match by two or more goals – they’ve progressed on each of the previous 16 occasions.
- Unai Emery has won 25 matches in the Europa League knockout stages – more than any other manager.
Player To Watch
The ageless Frenchman has been displaying some immense energy levels and performances, which has left many surprised, especially given his massive injury this time last year. To be honest, not even Emery expected him to come back this strong and lead the other defenders by example. His colossal performance against Watford was a testament of his commitment and talent.
Against Napoli, even Koscielny knows the game and level of performance would be totally different. Arsenal and their defence, in particular, are expected to be put under early pressure, and Koscielny will be crucial to Arsenal’s chances in this game. Will the Gunners’ captain deliver a magical performance once more?
Napoli 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal’s vulnerability away from home is no secret, and Napoli will try and exploit their weaknesses. The Gunners did show some improvement in their travels against Watford, but Napoli are on a differnt level altogether. Ancelotti’s men are expected to keep the pressure on the Gunners, who alternatively are expected to sit tight and protect their two-goal advantage.
Overall, the game is expected to be a tight, end-to-end affair. Both sides can score, and it’s likely that Arsenal might attack in periods. Expect the game to end in a draw and Arsenal to go through to the semi-final of the Europa League.