Third place Napoli play host to AC Milan on Saturday (19:45 GMT, live on ESPN) looking to maintain their unbeaten home record and stay in contention with the Serie A league leaders.
Napoli have 26 points to their credit so far this season, having recorded eight wins, two draws and two defeats in their 12 matches to date. They are currently five points shy of leaders Juventus, but just one behind Inter Milan in second.
The Partenopei won 4-2 away at Genoa last weekend. Two goals in second half stoppage time from Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne allowed them to escape with all three points and atone for the 1-1 draw at home to Torino in their previous fixture.
The club’s good start to the season has been built around a strong defence, who have conceded just nine times – a joint-league best alongside Fiorentina and Juventus – and a potent strike force whose 20 goals is the fourth best return in the division.
Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani unsurprisingly leads Napoli’s goal chart with eight goals from his 10 starts to date, but Hamsik has also chipped in with five goals in 12 starts (0.42 per match). That ratio sees him on course to beat his total of nine in 30 starts (0.3 per match) last season despite being employed in a slightly deeper midfield role this campaign.
Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri is likely to be without one regular for the visit of Milan with Macedonian forward Goran Pandev struggling to recover from injury. Pandev’s tactical awareness helped facilitate the move to the 3-5-1-1 formation that has brought greater solidity to Napoli this season. With exciting youngster Insigne ready to step into his shoes they should not be unduly weakened.
Mazzarri’s opposite number Massimiliano Allegri would be delighted to check into his club’s treatment room and find just one injured player. Instead, he has numerous players ruled out, including first choice defenders Ignazio Abate, Luca Antonini and Daniele Bonera.
Milan have conceded two or more goals in three of their last five league fixtures and have conceded 16 in total this season. With youngster Mattia De Sciglio and Guinean midfielder Kevin Constant taking up the full-back roles and 36-year Mario Yepes likely to partner Philippe Mexes in central defence, Milan’s backline looks ill-equipped to deal with Napoli’s forwards.
Milan have paid heavily for their decision to cash in on Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the same summer they released a number of experienced professionals whose contracts had reached their conclusion. They lack quality and experience throughout the side and based on their performances to date deserve little better than the 13th place they currently occupy.
Allegri has flitted from formation to formation without ever finding the right formula and although there have been some bright spots, such as the emergence of forward Stephan El Shaarawy – the club’s top scorer with eight goals – Milan have generally been pretty dour this season, lacking invention or incision in their play.
The frustration of the Milan supporters was evident during their 3-1 home defeat to Fiorentina last weekend. Alexandre Pato, just back from his most recent injury layoff, was roundly jeered after missing a 35th minute penalty and was removed in favour of Giampaolo Pazzini, who made a case for more regular inclusion with Milan’s solitary goal of the match. The whole team were booed off the pitch at full time.
With Allegri apparently secure in his job, at least in the immediate future, any upturn in fortunes is unlikely unless significant investment is made in January. As it is, Milan will be scrapping to finish in the top ten come the end of the campaign.
Napoli v AC Milan Betting Tips Verdict
Napoli are undefeated at home this season, winning four of their five league matches and seven out of eight in all competitions. They are a well balanced team and in Cavani possess a striker who can be the difference between the sides. Milan have been poor this season and with a depleted defence are likely to offer little resistance.
- Therefore, back Napoli to win @ 10/11 with Boylesports or William Hill.
- Cavani is in excellent form having scored in each of his last five matches for club and country. He scored a hat-trick when the two sides met at the Stadio San Paolo last season and against a less impressive Milan defence this time around can be heavily fancied to get on the scoresheet. Therefore, back Edinson Cavani to score at anytime @ 4/5 with Bet365, Boylesports or Betfred.