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It is only a matter of time before Napoli are crowned Serie A champions this season
AC Milan won the Serie A title last term and recently thrashed the champions-elect
Napoli are favorites to advance but the first leg at San Siro will not be easy for them
The odds for AC Milan vs Napoli are from the BetMGM sportsbook. Sign up today for a $1000 first bet offer.
This is likely to be a tight match at San Siro, and the scores may well still be level at the interval.
Back a draw at half-time of Wednesday’s first leg. (-102)
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To say that AC Milan have a rich pedigree in Europe would be an understatement. Only Real Madrid, with a remarkable 14 triumphs, have won the Champions League more often than the club from Italy’s second city. Yet new soccer followers might not conceive of Milan as a continental power.
The last time the Rossoneri lifted the famous trophy was in 2007. Their appearance in that year’s final was their third in five seasons. Milan had a very strong case to be the best team in Europe at that point, and there were not really any signs that their dominance would dramatically abate.
Yet Milan have reached just one quarter-final in the last 16 years - and that was way back in 2012. Over the last few campaigns, they have only seldom qualified for the Champions League, as the likes of Juventus, Napoli, and Roma outperformed them in Serie A.
Last season, Milan finally got their hands on the title again. Their victory came ahead of schedule; few had expected them to finish at the summit of the standings before a ball had been kicked.
Doing so brought them not only a trophy but also a place in Pot One for the Champions League group stage draw, in turn landing them a relatively favorable set of opponents in the opening round.
After progressing alongside Chelsea and ahead of Red Bull Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb, Milan squeezed past Tottenham Hotspur in the round of 16. They will now face Napoli, a domestic rival whom they recently thrashed 4-0, in the last eight of Europe’s premier tournament.
Will that stunning result at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona the weekend before last have any bearing on this tie? That remains to be seen, but Milan will no doubt draw confidence from such a decisive victory.
At the same time, Luciano Spalletti will be telling his side that Milan’s recent win was a one-off. There is some merit in that. It is impossible to argue against the notion that Napoli have been the best team in Serie A this term. After all, they are a massive 16 points clear in top spot right now.
The gap separating Napoli from Milan is even larger at 22 points. Spalletti’s side have been truly magnificent this season, and their accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider the extent to which the squad changed last summer.
Napoli have lit up the Champions League as well as the domestic Italian game. They won five out of six games in the group phase, scoring 20 goals on their way to a first-place finish ahead of Liverpool, Ajax, and Rangers. They then thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt, last season’s Europa League winners, 5-0 on aggregate in the first knockout round.
Napoli are heavy favorites to win this tie and make it through to the semi-finals. There are still three Italian teams remaining in the competition (the first time that has happened at the quarter-final stage since 2006), but few anticipate Inter or Milan claiming the trophy. On the other hand, Napoli are among the overall favorites with the best online sportsbooks.
The key question is whether Spalletti’s team can now deal with the increased pressure. Napoli are still upstarts in the sense that no one foresaw them having such a good season, but there are now expectations surrounding the Italian champions-elect and they will have to deal with the extra scrutiny.
When Napoli beat Milan 2-1 away from home in September, many people began to sit up and take notice. That result moved them onto 17 points from a possible 21 and kept them in the first place. It was significant in that Napoli had defeated the defending champions on their own patch.
Napoli have been fearless at opposition stadiums all season long. They have lost just twice on the road in all competitions, going down 1-0 to Inter in Serie A and 2-0 to Liverpool in the Champions League. They tend to play their usual style of soccer no matter which ground they are playing at.
But given the high-stakes nature of Wednesday’s encounter, we could see a slightly more measured performance from Napoli, especially in the first half. If this game is drawn, Spalletti will back his team to come out on top at home. Avoiding defeat will therefore be the priority at San Siro.
With that in mind, there is a good chance that the scores will still be level midway through this first leg. Back a draw at half-time when AC Milan take on Napoli in the Champions League this week.
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Teams: AC Milan vs Napoli
Location: San Siro, Milan, Italy
Date and Time: Apr. 12 , 2023, 3 p.m. ET
How to Watch: Paramount+
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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