MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews the Europa League quarter-final first leg tie between German high-flyers Wolfsburg and Italian cup specialists Napoli from Thursday night.
Wolfsburg v Napoli | Thursday 20.05 | ITV4
I’ve eulogised enough about Dieter Hecking’s Wolfsburg side this season and I was delighted to see the Wolves secure us a winning Bundesliga selection on Saturday evening when easing to a 2-0 win at crisis club Hamburg. The three points was good enough to secure Champions League football next season for Germany’s second best side and now they’ll have their sights set on Europa League glory.
Wolfsburg have been chalked up as tournament favourites and after dismantling Inter Milan in the last round will fancy their chances of overcoming a second Italian side in the last eight. But Hecking’s men will be well aware of the threat posed by the Partenopei despite their recent failings.
Following a humbling 1-0 loss in the Coppa Italia semi-final at home to Lazio last midweek, owner Aurelio De Laurentiis had to be persuaded not to sack Rafa Benitez on the spot but the Napoli boss is almost certain to be on his way in the summer. The Partenopei know Europa League success is their only chance of Champions League football next term. The stakes are high in Naples.
Wolfsburg have made mince meat of most sides that have visited their Volkswagen Arena home this season. It’s now nine wins on the spin in front of their home supporters whilst Everton are the only side to come away from the Wolves’ den with a victory; even then, Hecking’s hosts deserved at least a point.
So it all points to a home win, right? In theory, yes. But can I find the guts to suggest backing Wolfsburg at 5/6 quotes? No. Napoli are W1-D2-L4 in their most recent road trips; throw in the Wolfsburg record at the Volkswagen Arena and I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m not loading both barrels?
Well Benitez’s boys have been quietly impressive in Europe, as is Rafa’s style. The visitors have leaked just four goals in their 10 Europa League outings, keeping seven clean sheets in the process. Shutouts have been secured in four of their past five away days in Europe’s secondary competition; Benitez knows how to set-up a side to get results on the continent.
Interestingly, this fixture pits the two sides to have attempted the most shots in the competition together but like Napoli, Wolfsburg have boasted surprisingly good defensive results in European action. Just two goals have been conceded in their past five Europa fixtures and so for all the attacking talent on show, this game has the potential to peter out into a tactical battle.
888 Sport’s offering of 5/4 on Under 2.5 Goals just looks too big for a quarter-final first leg clash in Europe and is worth a bite. And to avoid missing out on the Wolfsburg party, I’ll dip into the Asian Handicap market with 888 Sport for a slice of the 42/41 on Wolfsburg -0.75.
Backing this selection means we’ll pocket a full pay-out should Wolfsburg win by two clear goals but also bag half of that potential pay-out should they only manage a victory by a solitary goal. Six of their last eight at the Volkswagen Arena victories were secured by two goals or more whilst five of Napoli’s eight away defeats this term have also been by the same margin.
Wolfsburg v Napoli – Wolfsburg -0.75 (42/41 888 Sport)
Wolfsburg v Napoli – Under 2.5 Goals (5/4 888 Sport)
Are you getting involved with this Europa League tie? Reckon Mark’s on the road to profit?
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