TACTICAL boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) is on-hand to pick out his favourite value fancies from Wednesday night's mouthwatering Serie A match-up between Napoli and Atalanta.
Napoli v Atalanta | Wednesday 30th October 2019, 18:00 | Premier Sports
Third-placed Atalanta travel to Naples on Wednesday evening looking to continue their rich vein of scoring form after a 7-1 weekend thrashing of 10-man Udinese. Goals from Josip Ilicic (2), Luis Muriel (3), Mario Pasalic and Amad Traore helped La Dea bounce back from a mauling of their own at the hands of Manchester City last midweek, and move three points clear of opponents Napoli in the process.
Napoli could only manage a point away at lowly SPAL on Sunday, and will be keen not to lose any further ground on Juventus and co at the top of the table, and a defeat could see them slip as low down as seventh in the standings.
Rotation played a part as Napoli looked to balance the Champions League in a hectic Serie A period, and both sides could make changes for the game on Wednesday.
Atalanta’s attacking arsenal
The differing tactical approaches of both sides should lead to an open, attacking game, with Atalanta’s 3-4-1-2 matching up with Napoli’s preferred 4-4-2 meaning there will be plenty of space for the talented attackers on both sides to exploit.
Fresh from scoring seven on Sunday, Atalanta top the Serie A goals chart with 28 across their opening nine games, and the underlying Expected Goals (xG) numbers suggest this is no fluke, with this currently sat at 24.87. Averaging an impressive 21.20 shots, La Dea will fancy their chances to create a number of openings, and with in-form Luis Muriel up front, will feel like they should be able to take one.
Injuries are mounting up defensively for Napoli, with Mario Rui, Kostas Monalas and Kevin Malcuit all doubts, and Napoli’s decision to play 4-4-2 should see a lot of space available in the centre of the park, putting a lot of pressure on the two central midfielders selected by Carlo Ancelotti.
Although Napoli have the impressive Kalidou Koulibaly at centre-half, Muriel will able to utilise his pace in behind in the channels to stretch the backline, and with the wing backs pushing high on the counter to give the Napoli full-backs a problem, Ilicic and Papu Gomez will be key in behind the Colombian striker.
The two attackers will look to overrun Napoli’s midfield two, whilst the deeper Atalanta midfielders aren’t afraid to push forward when required, creating a massive overload on the Napoli backline.
The creative choices to unpick the Napoli defence are vast; 11 players are averaging over one key pass per-game, and the influential Gomez and Ilicic are providing 2.80 and 2.10 respectively – if Napoli are to stop the flying Nerazzurri, restricting their outlet will be key.
Bergamo boys vulnerable at the back
However, Atalanta have also proved themselves to be vulnerable at the back, and coming up against the fast, attacking football of Manchester City in the Champions League highlighted their issues.
If the Atalanta wing backs are to press high it leaves space in behind for Napoli attackers such as Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne to exploit particularly on the counter, whilst their tendency to drift inside will help to create further overloads out wide, with the Napoli full backs expected to bomb on and provide an attacking option.
The Partenopei should be able to muster up a vast amount of crossing options, whilst these 2v1s may help to force back the Atalanta wing backs and stunt their attacking threat moving forward.
Fernando Llorente may be given the opportunity up front as they look to capitalise in these wide areas, whilst Atalanta could be forced to sit deep to try and alleviate the worries of the Napoli attackers pace, freeing up space in front for the creative talents of Fabian Ruiz to control the game, who impressed off the bench v SPAL.
The counter attacking talents and form of the Atalanta attack in particular points in the direction of goals; Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals is appealing at 7/10 (Bet365). With both sides averaging an xGa of above one per-game against noticeably weaker opposition, they are certainly vulnerabilities for sides, and given the attacking talent on show, this represents value.
Atalanta are averaging 6.44 corners, in part down to their combination of both high shot count and wide attacking threat, and they could look to target this on Wednesday night.
Napoli’s xGa off set-pieces this season is particularly high at 3.73, and has seen them concede four goals from these scenarios in the league. Atalanta themselves have scored twice from set-pieces, and possess a strong aerial threat, particularly from Simon Kjaer, Berat Djimsiti and Jose Luis Palomino, all of whom tower at above 190cm.
Although all three are without a goal this season, coming up against a side who struggle off set-pieces, there could be value in either the shots on target or goal scoring markets. The standout option is Hans Hateboer, given it being hard to second guess who Atalanta will select at centre back with Gian Piero Gasperini’s tendency to rotate.
Standing at 188cm, the Dutchman is also a threat in attacking areas from the wing back role from open play, so he is certainly worth keeping an eye on at 10/1 (Betfair) to score anytime as a long shot, especially when priced as short as 4/1 elsewhere.
Unfortunately, at time of writing there are no shot markets being offered by bookmakers, but is certainly one to keep an eye closer to the match.
Cards to flow
As explained above, the game should be a free-flowing, open encounter with plenty of space for teams to utilise on the counter. Referee Piero Giacomelli has overseen four Serie A games, dishing out 18 yellow cards and one red, whilst Napoli (21 YC/1 RC) and Atalanta (17 YC /0 RC) have accumulated a high volume in their games respectively.
Combining the lack of leniency from the referee, plus the tactical factors of the game, each side Over 1.5 Cards is appealing at 6/5 (Bet365).