Lazio vs Galatasaray | Thursday 9th December 2021, 20:00
Group E is set up for a fascinating finale at the helm as the two first placed hopefuls duel in Rome.
Just three points separate first placed Galatasaray and second placed Lazio meaning that only victory will be good enough for the hosts if they are to secure top spot and avoid a knockout play-off game with the Champions Leagues third placed rejects.
As for Gala, avoiding defeat at the Stadio Olimpico will ensure that they top the group and cruise to the round of 16.
It looks to me that this game has been priced up with these implications in mind. Maurizio Sarri’s Eagles have not been outstanding in the UEL this season. Excluding their two fixtures against the groups basement boys Lokomotiv, in which they won 5-0 on aggregate, they have drawn both matches against Marseille and lost the reverse of this fixture 1-0.
Domestically, Lazio sit in eighth, nine points off the UCL spots. Thus far, they have played all seven of the teams currently above them; Milan, Inter, Napoli, Atalanta, Juventus, Fiorentina and Roma. Against these sides they have picked up ten points from a possible 21, however, since their draw vs Atalanata at the end of October, they have played Juventus and Napoli, losing both times, shipping six goals and scoring zilch.
Domestically, backing their opponents with a 0.75 goal headstart in these big fixtures would have paid out on four of these occasions and only lost once.
Granted, Galatasaray are not in the same category as the Italian big boys, yet, I think this paints an accurate picture of how the Eagles crumble on the big occasion, particularly recently. Add to this the fact that Ciro Immobile remains a huge doubt after hobbling off at half-time vs Sampdoria in Lazio’s most recent game and I think taking the hosts on is worth a go here.
Mansion Bet have Galatasaray with a 0.75 goal headstart on the asian handicap at 5/4. This means that the bet is a winner if the visitors avoid defeat and you get half of your stake back if they lose by one. I would advise two points on this.
This bet has paid out in full in all five of Galatasaray’s group games, the only caveat to this angle is the fact that their lynchpin, Alexandru Cicaldau, will miss this one as he has tested positive for COVID, he has started every other game in this competition. However, with the visitors going to Italy needing a result, I expect this to be a very close encounter.
Given the context of the game, I think backing Fernando Muslera- the visitors' keeper- for a card is also a great bet. With a draw being enough to secure a spot in round 16, I suspect the Uraygian will be pulling out all the stocks to secure a result, and the 35-year old shot stopper is no stranger to a booking either.
This campaign, Muslera already has five cards to his name, at least three have come for arguing, one for a foul and the other has come for time wasting. This does not include the straight red card he received in a qualification game against St Johnstone.
Over the course of his career, he has racked up 43Y and 2R cards, a staggering tally for a goalkeeper, and in the UCL and UEL, he has eight cards in 50 appearances, four of which have come in the past two seasons.
It is also worth noting that the referee- Carlos del Cerro Grande- is of the card happy variety, brandishing an average of exactly five per game this season. Staggeringly, he has booked a goalkeeper for time wasting in three of the last four games he has overseen!
At 6/1, given Musela’s record, the occasion, the referee and the fact that he is facing his former club, I think this punt is worthy of a point.
Napoli vs Leicester | Thursday 9th December 2021, 17:45
Staying in Italy, Group C is also set up for grandstand finish with it all still to play for as just two points separated the whole group. First placed Leicester travel to Naples and it is very much in the Fox's hands.
If Leicester win, they top the group. If they draw, they will have to hope that Spartak do not better that result and they could finish as low as third if Napoli and Spartak win.
To put it simply, the hosts have to win if they are to stand any chance of avoiding the play off round and with that in mind I am siding with the Little Donkey’s. You can get Luciano Spalletti’s side at 23/20 with Boylesports and I would advise a point on this if you fancy joining me in siding with the hosts.
After making a blistering start to the Serie A campaign, taking 32 points from the first 12 fixtures, they have begun to stutter, winning only one of their last four.
In the Europa League, on paper their form has been patchy, however, the underlying data suggests they have been unlucky.
Despite losing to Spartak Moscow on both occasions, they did not lose the xG battle in either and finished those matches with a combined xG goal difference of +1.07. They brushed Legia aside 7-1 on aggregate and were good value to do so as they generated an xG of 6.74 over the two legs and were desperately unlucky to draw the reverse of this fixture, despite going two goals down, as they generated an xG 1.39 greater. I
n fact, no side in the competition boasts a greater xG total then Napoli (14.2) and only Lyon (8.5) can best their xGD of 8.30.
The visitors have lurched from one disaster to another this campaign. They have only won two of their last nine, failing to keep a clean sheet in that time as they have shipped 16 goals.
This illustrates the rotten defending which has been a feature of their season. This, combined with the uncertainty that surrounds the outcome of the division, lends itself to a goal-laden game. With that in mind I think it is worth having half a point on Napoli to win and both teams to score at 29/10 with Betfair.
Lazio vs Galatasaray – Galatasaray +0.75 Asian Handicap (5/4 Mansion)
Lazio vs Galatasaray – Fernando Muslera Card (6/1 Sky Bet)
Napoli vs Leicester – Napoli to win (23/20 Boylesports)
Napoli vs Leicester – Napoli to win and BTTS (29/10 Betfair)