MARK O’HAIRE’S (@MarkOHaire) final European NAP of the season arrives from Serie A on Saturday.
Napoli v Fiorentina | Saturday 19:45 | BT Sport
Juventus have all but secured a sixth successive Scudetto but the race for the runners-up spot in the top-tier of Italian football looks likely to go down to the wire.
Napoli are in a duel with Roma for second place – and there is a rich prize on offer for the winners, for the team who end the season behind the Old Lady will be guaranteed a place in the group stages of the Champions League, while the team that finishes third face a potentially perilous play-off tie.
Napoli in flying form
The Partenopei are certainly doing their best to overhaul the capital club with last weekend’s 5-0 thumping of Torino particularly standing out. In fact, Maurizio Sarri’s men have been flying since their exit in the Champions League to Real Madrid.
Napoli have returned W8-D2-L0 from their past 10 outings, keeping clean sheets in half of these and scoring at least twice in eight. And their home form when excluding the top-five in Serie A also commands respect (W12-D2-L0).
The Partenopei have suffered only two league losses in 37 Stadio San Paolo matches and having claimed victories by at least a two-goal margin in seven of their most recent 11 encounters in front of their home supporters in Serie A.
Sarri has a full squad available for Saturday night’s showdown with Fiorentina and the expectation is for another comfortable home success.
Fiorentina moved into seventh following a thrilling 3-2 victory over a Lazio side with one eye on the Coppa Italia final. La Viola now trail AC Milan by a solitary point but doubts linger over their motivation to finish sixth and a potential Europa League qualification campaign that starts in July.
The triumph over Lazio was Fiorentina’s fourth from seven unbeaten games against top-eight clubs in Florence but Paulo Sousa’s team have suffered on the road against the same standard of opposition this term (W0-D1-L5), leaking two goals or more in each defeat.
The guests have been beaten in 10 of their past 12 at the top-six going further back and although influential centre-half Gonzalo Rodriguez is back from injury, Davide Astori is now missing and creative midfielder Borja Valero is suspended.
The betting angle
Nevertheless, La Viola have scored in all but one of their last nine and carry a goalscoring threat that should be capable of causing a few problems to Napoli’s far from watertight rearguard. Napoli have leaked in nine of 11 encounters at home to top-13 clubs and I’d be surprised if they enhanced that record here.
However, only Torino have conceded more frequently than Fiorentina in the top-half with the visitors shipping at least two goals in each of their past six, as well as each of their last seven on their travels. With Napoli notching three times in four of their last five on home soil, the goals should flow.
Napoli’s past 18 games have averaged 3.67 goals per-game whilst Fiorentina’s last six have averaged 4.50. Collectively the two clubs have delivered 14/36 (39%) winning Over 3.5 Goals selections in their respective home/away league dates so I’ll chuck the goals angle in alongside the home success.
Napoli v Fiorentina – Napoli to win and Over 3.5 Goals (13/10 Paddy Power)