It’s advantage England ahead of Thursday’s quarter-final second legs in Naples and West London, as both sides take valuable, albeit slender, leads into their respective games – each looking to secure a semi-final spot for a second time since the Europa League’s inception in 2009-10.
Including their 86th minute 0-1 away win in Prague last week, Chelsea go into the return leg at Stamford Bridge having won 10 of their 11 Europa League matches this season (D1 L0). Meanwhile, despite coming away from Vicarage Road with their first away league clean sheet of the season on Monday, Arsenal face the daunting prospect of a trip to Napoli’s San Paolo Stadium with a 2-0 lead to defend.
It promises to be an intriguing night for the two former Champions League perennials, both looking to re-establish themselves at the top table of European football. Read on for more from our football expert, including the best bets to look out for in Thursday’s fixtures.
Napoli vs Arsenal
Arsenal go into their crucial game knowing that a rare display of defensive solidity will secure safe-passage into the semi-final against Villareal or Valencia – the latter being Emery’s former side.
With 25 wins in the Europa League’s knockout stages – more than any other manager – the odds are stacked in the Gunners’ favour. With the return to form of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Lucas Torreira and a rested Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette, it looks like attack may prove the best form of defence for Emery – and at 7/1 to score more than 2.5 goals away from home is an intriguing prospect.
But then again, this is Arsenal, away from home, against the Serie A’s second best side. Therefore at 3/1 to make it to the semi-final, Napoli are by no means out of this tie.
Chelsea vs Slavia Prague
History is certainly on the Blues’ side – their guests are winless in their last eight European meetings with English clubs (W0 D2 L6) since their 2-1 win over Leeds in the UEFA Cup in 2000.
Add to this the manner in which Maurizio Sarri’s side breezed past Dynamo Kiev (8-0 on aggregate) in the previous round, Olivier Giroud’s status at the top of the goalscorer charts (nine) and Willian leading the assists table (seven), the prospect of Chelsea to win by a four goal margin (10/1) feels worthy of consideration.
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