Napoli v AC Milan – Stadio San Paolo at 19:45 live on BT Sport 3
Neither Napoli nor Milan approached 2016/17 with particular verve or confidence after a rather disappointing summer transfer window.
Napoli pinched second-place in Serie A last term to record their seventh consecutive top-six finish but a first Scudetto since 1989/90 eluded the Partenopei despite a very promising first six months under Maurizio Sarri.
The former bank manager remains in charge at Stadio San Paolo but Gonzalo Higuain is no longer at the club, a devastating blow to Azzurri supporters after his record-breaking campaign.
Napoli have brought in Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik and central midfielder Piotr Zielinski but it’ll be hard to replace the Argentine’s 36 goals.
Elsewhere, centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly remains unsettled and agitating for a move to Chelsea whilst Lorenzo Insigne is caught up in a bitter contract dispute with the club. It’s hardly ideal for the Partenopei’s pursuit of Juventus.
Sarri’s side started their season with a 2-2 draw at newly-promoted Pescara where Napoli were caught cold by their hosts and found themselves 2-0 down at half-time. Manolo Gabbiadini cut an isolated figure in attack Insigne was also well below par.
Fortunately for the Azzurri, substitute Dries Mertens had a point to prove and duly did, scoring twice and rescuing a point. The Belgian will expect to start here as the hosts look to defend what was a very strong return on home soil last season (W16-D3-L0).
Twelve of those 16 triumphs saw Napoli ahead at half-time with nine victories bagged by a margin of two goals or more. However, despite their dominance only eight of those 19 encounters saw the Partenopei keep their sheets clean with 14 fixtures at the San Paolo rewarding Over 2.5 Goals backers.
Napoli have avoided defeat in nine of their past 10 (W4-D5-L1) encounters with Milan and the Rossoneri arrive bemoaning their own issues in the transfer market. The slow process of the club’s sale to Chinese investors has denied Vincenzo Montella the opportunity to strengthen his team.
Nevertheless, Milan managed to keep hold of Carlos Bacca and the Colombian rewarded AC with a first career hat-trick during a thrilling 3-2 win against Torino last weekend.
Milan had led 3-1 after 90 minutes but by the 95th they had conceded another goal and given away a penalty. Montella’s men were rescued by 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma who denied Torino and returning head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic a share of the spoils.
Centre-back Alessio Romagnoli displayed his undoubted ability against Torino but was caught out for both goals conceded. The youngster – who’s considered one of the faces of Milan’s future and has drawn comparisons to Alessandro Nesta – has been linked with a move to Chelsea and will need to regain composure whilst the Rossoneri’s midfield wasn’t commanding enough.
In 2015/16 Milan returned W6-D6-L7 on their travels and performed poorly against top-four (W1-D2-L5). The guests have lost 11 of their last 19 at top-six clubs and having finished outside the top-six in each of the last three seasons, it’s hard to really get a solid gauge on their prospects this term just now.
Under Mihajlovic Milan were a defensively-minded outfit on their travels and were only beaten by more than a solitary goal twice on their travels. However, Montella’s more expansive style should lead to a more open contest, which may not suit the Rossoneri.
Despite the disturbances in morale and obvious weaknesses in defence, it’s hard to overlook the two teams’ previous trends in these situations. Therefore, siding with Napoli off a -0.75 Asian Handicap start is preferred at odds of 1.88 with Over 2.5 Goals also standing out at 1.78
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Napoli -0.75 at 1.88 & Over 2.5 Goals at 1.78
Prices correct at time of writing.
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