Europa League Odds, Picks, Prediction: Barcelona vs. Napoli Betting Preview (Feb. 17)
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images. Pictured: Barcelona standout Memphis Depay.
Barcelona vs. Napoli Odds
|Over/Under||2.5 (-135 / +115)|
|Day | Time||Thursday | 12:45 p.m. ET|
|How To Watch||Paramount+ | fuboTV|
|Odds updated via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.|
Barcelona and the Europa League are words not often used in the same sentence when talking about the club’s illustrious history. Team executives expected to not just be in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, but to potentially win a round or two as well.
However, a loss and draw with Benfica and two blowout defeats to Bayern Munich in the group stage — prior to the arrival of Xavi as the new manager — have the club stuck playing Thursdays in Europe’s second-tier competition.
And the draw against Napoli is far from a routine win for the European giant.
They’re favored to advance overall in the betting markets and are odds-on favorites to win this match at home in the Camp Nou. However, Napoli’s recent form since key players have returned from injury makes this game more of a tossup than the market indicates.
Even though I’m down on Italy generally this season, Napoli is one team who has shined in European competition and appears to have moved past its brutal run of form in December and early January that coincided with key players out.
Barcelona Seeking Consistency on Pitch
Every time it seems Barcelona is starting to turn a corner under Xavi and go on a winning run, a lackluster performance or result dooms them.
Consecutive wins against Alavés and Atlético Madrid moved them into the top four in La Liga, but a last-second draw at Espanyol in a game that they lacked creativity and chances against an overrated side led to them tying 2-2 and more points dropped.
The attack has made some additions to improve in the January transfer window, including bringing on Arsenal standout Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Wolves winner Adama Traoré to name a few.
Yet, Barcelona still sits just fourth in La Liga in non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes and fifth in shots per 90 minutes. The recent hot finishing run that saw them score four on Atlético and two on Espanyol despite two total expected goals from those matches was some expected positive regression.
Barcelona for the season now is about right in line with its attacking numbers, when you compare expected goals to actual goals for. They remain a bit unlucky defensively this year, but also are conceding high quality chances due to mediocre defensive personnel and struggles to prevent counterattacks.
The club has been excellent when it’s able to keep the ball and defend with possession, but they’ve struggled considerably when forced to defend without the ball. The defense is just 13th in ball recoveries per 90 minutes and is just 16th in total pressures per 90 in Spain.
Given how slow Napoli typically is in build-up and effective at keeping the ball they are, Barcelona might struggle if it doesn’t get as much of the ball as it is used to in this meeting.
Napoli Getting Needed Defensive Boost
Napoli’s two most important players are back in the starting lineup, as Kalidou Koulibaly and Victor Osimhen have returned to the defense and attack in the last two matches. Napoli was dominant early in the season in Italy and looked like title favorites until injuries started to catch up with the club.
However, the return of those players from injury and Africa Cup of Nations duty makes them a much stronger side. A team that handled Inter in a 1-1 draw at home and created way more clear scoring chances in the match. Prior to that, they conceded just 0.4 xGA in a comfortable 2-0 victory against Venezia.
Like Barcelona, Napoli has mediocre ball-winning numbers in the midfield when you look at recoveries. That could mean they’ll struggle to win the ball off Barcelona, much like it will struggle to win it off them and press effectively.
Yet, Luciano Spalletti’s side is No. 1 defensively in Italy in overall NPxG conceded and is best in allowing the fewest big scoring chances in the entire Italian top flight. They posted a +1.13 xG difference per 90 in their Europa League group and that’s an encouraging sign for them ahead of this clash.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Both attacks have some matchup advantages against the opposition defense when they have the ball, given how poor both are at winning the ball off the opponent in the midfield generally.
However, Napoli’s defense is the much sturdier side overall and the return of Osimhen and Koulibaly come just in time for Napoli to potentially pull off the upset in this tie.
I’m backing Napoli on the road to play more conservatively, try to steal a draw on the road before returning home for the second leg next week. While Barcelona is a bet on team long term, Napoli’s top ranked defense in Italy and stellar Europa League form is enough for me to trust them on their travels.
I’d play anything -125 or better on Napoli to get at least a point.
Pick: Napoli +0.5 (-125 or better)
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