MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) is back on the trail of more continental winners with his European NAP heading to Genoa on Sunday night for a slice of Serie A action.
Sampdoria v Napoli | Sunday 13th May 2018, 19:45 | BT Sport
It might not be mathematically confirmed just yet but Juventus have all but sealed a record-breaking seventh successive Scudetto. Leading Napoli by six points with two games to play, the Old Lady boast a far superior goal difference (the head-to-head decider is equal) and so the title showdown is all but done.
The table-toppers complete their campaign at home to already-relegated Verona and this weekend they travel to Roma – a tricky tie on paper. However, with Juve just requiring a point to confirm Serie A glory and with a draw incidentally assuring Roma of Champions League qualification, conspiracy theories are rife.
The mutually beneficial stalemate at the Stadio Olimpico is as short as 9/5 in some quarters and there’s an acceptance down south that Napoli’s race is already long run. The Partenopei have collapsed under the psychological pressure and physiological exertions since that dramatic victory in Turin.
Napoli travel to Sampdoria on Sunday night well aware a first Serie A crown since the days of Diego Maradona in 1990 has slipped away. There’s an overwhelming sense of anti-climax in the region, disappointment, reflection and soul-searching.
Napoli’s race is run
In the match immediately after their win at Juventus, Maurizio Sarri’s men crumbled. Trounced 3-0 by Fiorentina, the Partenopei lost the shot count 27-4 and Expected Goals count 2.83-0.04 – they managed a sole effort from inside their opposition penalty box with mental and physical fatigue crippling the camp.
Last weekend, Napoli twice chucked away winning positions to be held 2-2 at home to a Torino team with nothing left to play for. The performed was improved from that in Florence but Sarri’s troops only won the shots on-target count 4-2 and certainly weren’t the force we’ve become to expect.
Midfielder Jorginho was in tears on the pitch post-match with the realisation that Napoli’s challenge had evaporated. With an in-demand coach and a quality group of players coming to the end of their cycle at the Stadio San Paulo, it’s a sad end to what could have been one of football’s great tales this term.
It’s obviously been an extraordinary campaign for the southerners – three more points would set a new club record points tally in the top-flight – but it’s really hard to trust them at cramped odds around the 4/6 mark on Sunday, considering the above.
Oppose the Partenopei
Obviously, Napoli have the potential and capacity to blow any Serie A side away on their day but we have to have significant doubts over their ability to perform to those standards in Genoa this weekend. The players look knackered and their small squad – plus Sarri’s reluctance to rotate – has bit them were it hurts.
The visitors have won just four of their past 10 league games and in only one of those triumphs did Napoli triumph by two goals or more – against a hopelessly out of form Udinese outfit. Recent road results have been inconsistent, while the goals have also dried up in the attacking third.
A trip to the Marassi to face Sampdoria is no easy meat. Marco Giampaolo's have little left to play for but they remain a force to be reckoned with as hosts – only the top-two in Italy have picked up more points in front of their home supporters as 72% of their overall points tally collected here.
Sampdoria have beaten Juventus, Atalanta, Fiorentina and Milan at the Marassi, held Roma and only suffered a one-goal defeat against Lazio. The Blucerchiati have only once been beaten by more than a solitary strike here this season and further back it’s just two losses by two or more goals in 37 under Giampaolo.
The betting angle
Admittedly, Samp were dreadful last weekend but back in their comforts of Genoa, I’m happy to support the hosts with a +1.25 start on the Asian Handicap line at 7/10 with 188BET.
Napoli are far too short to support and supporting this selection will see us pick up a half-stakes profit, even if the Partenopei pinch a victory by a solitary strike. Indeed, we’ll be paid out should Samp win, the game ends all-square, or Napoli win by one goal.
Sampdoria v Napoli – Sampdoria +1.25 Asian Handicap (7/10 188BET)