CAN the minnows of Dnipro cause Napoli problems in the Europa League? Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) picks out the best bets for us.
Napoli v Dnipro | Thursday 20:05
Blimey, look at the odds! Napoli are as short as 1/3 to win this Europa League semi-final first leg. It’s incredible to see such short prices being bandied about in a European semi-final. But it’s not hard to see why the Italian side are such strong favourites.
This is a match between a side who’ve elegantly cruised their way through the competition crowbarring past some stellar names against a team who’ve tip-toed their way into the last four via tight tactical encounters.
Let’s start with Napoli. Their Europa League run has produced some fantastic results and memorable games and they’ve lost just once in their 12 contests. Typical of a Rafael Benitez side, they’ve kicked on in the knockout stages.
First Trabzonspor were squashed 4-0 in Turkey in the Last 32 and then tournament favourites Wolfsburg were destroyed 4-1 in Germany in the opening leg of the Quarter-Finals. That’s incredible form!
Another big tick in their box is the fact they’re four points behind third place Lazio in Serie A. This means that picking up one of the three Champions League slots may be beyond them and the need to win this competition and qualify means much more.
Their opponents Dnipro only won two of their six group games and have edged through in all their knockout matches. It ain’t been straight-forward at all. Not many imagined we’d be sitting here after they lost at home to Qarabag in Matchday 3 and had just one point from nine in Group F.
Since they escaped from that group with just seven points (the lowest tally of any of the 24 qualifiers) they’ve been involved in three close knockout contests. I was hugely surprised when they knocked out Olympiakos in the Last 32 4-2 on aggregate and they built on that to beat Ajax and Club Brugge in the Last 16 and Quarter-Finals respectively.
The latter two ties were edgy. Both home legs were won 1-0 while Dnipro failed to score in the away legs (90 minutes). Ajax were dispatched in extra time while Brugge failed to score over the two legs. Doesn’t really compare to the rampaging Napoli games eh?
So with that in mind I think Dnipro will do all they can to crush this game and keep the tie alive. I don’t expect them to score and their priority will be to keep Napoli quiet. Having smashed six past the superior Wolfsburg in the previous round that looks a tall order for Dnipro.
It’s Napoli to nil for me at odds of 23/20 with BetVictor. It’s not a sexy price for a WTN bet, I get that. But it’s pragmatic.
Napoli v Dnipro – Napoli to win to nil (23/20 BetVictor)