EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Italy on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Napoli v Juventus | Sunday 26th January 2020, 19:45 | Premier Sports
Juventus are finding life much more straightforward since Cristiano Ronaldo found his goalscorer boots. The record-breaking Portuguese forward bagged a brace against Parma last weekend, meaning he’s now scored in seven successive Serie A matches – becoming the first to do so for the Bianconeri since David Trezeguet in 2005.
The Old Lady followed up their fifth league win on the spin – and 16th in 20 outings under Maurizio Sarri – with a cushy Coppa Italia triumph over Roma in midweek. That’s a decent return for a team that’s often failed to completely convince since the former Chelsea head coach took charge last summer, although the signs of another Scudetto appear ominous.
The Bianconeri’s midfield mystro Miralem Pjanic talked before Christmas of how Juve would be at their best in February and March, as squad settled under Sarri’s spell. However, that transformation has appeared ahead of schedule in 2020 with CR7 grabbing six goals in three outings this calendar year, the midfield looking solid with only slight issues at centre-half.
With Inter stuttering, Juventus have opened up a four-point advantage at the summit and Sarri’s side are a great value option at 11/10 (Betway) to extend their streak with top honours in Naples on Sunday night. The visitors have already claimed victory at Inter, Roma, Atalanta and Torino this term and boast a 67% Expected Goals (xG) from open play ratio.
Napoli in crisis
Napoli have been chalked up as odds-against hosts just six times since the start of last season but the Partenopei have returned W1-D2-L3 in that sample and head into the weekend’s encounter against their biggest enemy arguably at their lowest point since returning to the Italian top-flight in 2007.
The under-fire outfit eased the pressure on Gennaro Gattuso on Tuesday night by beating Lazio 1-0 in a tempestuous Coppa Italia quarter-finals and the Napoli boss has demanded his players “channel the venom” of that display into the San Paolo showdown. Of course, a positive response is entirely, although avoiding defeat could prove beyond Napoli.
The Partenopei have lost their last four home league games and are winless at the Stadio San Paolo since mid-October. Gattuso has suffered defeats in four of his first five Serie A fixtures with the hosts’ only success in that sequence a sketchy, stoppage-time turnaround at bottom-half dwellers Sassuolo. Performances have been questionable, to be kind.
Hosts hit “rock bottom”
The former Milan midfielder was forced to apologise to supporters for what he described as an “embarrassing” 2-0 home defeat to Fiorentina last weekend, suggesting the club had “hit rock bottom”. He also added, “I can’t explain it, as I felt the team would put in a great performance and I was let down. The team has no soul. We thought that we were recovering from the earlier situation, but evidently we’re still sick.”
Italian media claimed Allan and Dries Mertens had a heated argument in the dressing room following that Fiorentina shit-show and confusion reigned when an impromptu training retreat was cut short after less than 24 hours. To make matters even worse, key defensive players Kalidou Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, Faouzi Ghoulam and Alan are out injured.
Considering the chaos surrounding Napoli, it’s easy to oppose the out-of-sorts hosts against table-topping Juventus on Sunday night and an odds-against offering of 11/10 (Betway) is absolutely fair enough in the current clime.
Napoli v Juventus – Juventus to win (11/10 Betway)