Group F’s Napoli and AZ Alkmaar are bringing some interesting action at the UEFA Europa League on Friday.
The recent victory of Italian giant Napoli against bottom side Rijeka 2-0 and Dutch side AZ Alkmaar’s draw match against Real Sociedad make this match more fascinating – and we’re expecting some entertaining surprises. With Real Sociedad sandwiched between these two teams, their match looks to have a big outcome for Group F.
Napoli is currently at the top of their game with nine points, and seen as heavy favorite to win the match. The team’s going into the game full of confidence after a richly deserved 4-0 win with rivals Roma on Sunday’s Serie A clash. The emotional feat was the team’s first since the death of club legend Diego Maradona. Though the Italians are now in control of the group, they can’t afford to let their guard down just yet.
AZ Alkmaar, on the other hand, has also got off to an amazing start in the group with the 1-0 win over Napoli in Italy, and a victory against HNK Rijeka. But they still need to keep secure a really good win against Napoli to keep their chances alive. Currently, they’re on third place with seven points, behind Real Sociedad.
Napoli and AZ Alkmaar have played against each other on only one occasion in official European fixtures. They’re relatively strangers to each other’s styles and techniques.
AZ Alkmaar claimed a shocking win against Napoli in October, with Dani de Wit scoring an all-important goal. His heroism is surely needed tomorrow.
Yukinari Sugawara replaces injured right-back Jonas Svensson on field on Friday. AZ Alkmaar coach Arne Slot will also need to decide whether Myron Boadu or Albert Gudmundsson starts up front. Though there’s a big possibility we’ll see Boadu up front, after scoring in the win over Hercales Almelo at the weekend, sealing the team’s fourth victory in a row.
Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso will head towards the match without striker Victor Osimhen, Amir Rrahmani and Elseid Hysaj. Dries Mertens is likely to start up front with Arkaduisz Milik still banished by the club.
“It’s special to be here able to say with two games remaining that we have a chance of reaching the next round, despite being in the same group as Napoli and the current Liga leaders.
“All three clubs are very close in the table right now. You can make all the calculations you like, but I am convinced that if we lose tomorrow, then we’ll be out.”
But taking Napoli icon Maradona as their ultimate inspiration for the coming match, Lorenzo Insigne warns the Europa League trophy is a strong objective for Napoli.
“Maradona did incredible things, he took Napoli to the top of European football and we will never forget him.”
“The Europa League games are never easy and we’ve got to give our all.”
So, who’s winning?
On paper, Napoli should arguably win this matchup. They’re heading the clash on the back of three straight Europa League wins, and top online betting sites are clearly recognizing this.
Belgian star Dries Mertens, who scored a goal at the Roma match, has proven to be an enormous asset. Friday’s match will see him pressed into action against as a central striker.
But AZ Alkmaar’s unbeaten run has kept the club in decent position. They’ve already claimed maximum points from their first two Europa League games. Goalkeeper Marco Bizot is also helping them keep five clean sheets in their past nine matches in all competitions. If Bizot’s on his best form on Friday, AZ Alkmaar will be keeping Napoli on the edge.
It’s likely going to be a close fight between the two improving teams. But we’re expecting a 1-0 scoreline for Napoli.