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Friday February 22 2019
Europa League up for grabs

While Lazio bowed out, Napoli and Inter sailed through and should seize the realistic opportunity of winning the Europa League, writes Nick Valerio.

After Juventus’ dismal showing at Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, Italy’s most realistic shot at some European silverware this season rests on Napoli and Inter.

Max Allegri’s men were of course humbled in comprehensive fashion and, barring a miracle, will crash out of the Champions League on March 12.

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio also endured a miserable midweek encounter in Spain, losing 3-0 on aggregate to Sevilla, and the Aquile will now switch concentration to securing a European berth for the following campaign via their league finish or Coppa Italia success.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli might be firing blanks in Serie A, but they still seem to know how to find the back of the net in Europe. They thrashed FC Zurich 5-1 on aggregate to reach the last 16 of the Europa League, with a standout performance by Adam Ounas. The winger barely featured under Maurizio Sarri, but he showed in place of Jose Callejon on the right side of a 4-4-2 formation glimpses of what he can give to the team.

Callejon was famously never left out by Sarri, even when visibly exhausted or in games that were meaningless. That evidently impacted upon the confidence of second-string players like Ounas, Marko Rog and Nikola Maksimovic. Ancelotti has, if nothing else, introduced the concept of squad rotation to the Partenopei and is rediscovering some talents that had all but vanished.

If any Italian club is going all the way in Europe, it’s probably going to be Napoli. They were unlucky to go out of the Champions League in a very tough group by goal difference and, unlike Inter, have pretty much already guaranteed their spot in the top four. With Juventus 13 points out in front at the top, there’s nothing to distract Ancelotti from adding a new trophy to the CV.

Inter, on the other hand, still have work to do, particularly with a resurgent Milan and Roma gathering steam and they are no longer guaranteed third or even fourth spot in Serie A.

A serial winner, Ancelotti will have acknowledged this was his best chance of a trophy when the Azzurri got knocked out of the Champions League at the hands of Liverpool and PSG.

Looking at the last 16 in the Europa League, Napoli do stand out as potential winners. Unai Emery lifted this trophy repeatedly at Sevilla, but Arsenal seem dysfunctional and unreliable. Sarri is permanently on the verge of a Chelsea sacking, although we’ve seen in the past with Roberto Di Matteo that a mid-season dismissal can do wonders for this club.

Sevilla are the Europa League specialists, but although the aggregate win over Lazio was 3-0, the performances over two legs left a lot to be desired. A more clinical side could’ve created a very different tie.  

Villarreal and Valencia looked unconvincing too in their progress, while Claudio Marchisio’s Zenit scraped past Fenerbahce. Big guns like Galatasaray, Olympiacos, Bayer Leverkusen, Fenerbahce, Sporting CP and Shakhtar Donetsk have all been eliminated.

Eintracht Frankfurt are definitely worth keeping an eye on, as they showed Lazio in the group stage that they are a force to be reckoned with, annihilating Shakhtar 4-1 on Thursday evening. It would be fascinating to see them paired with Napoli, especially with Jonathan de Guzman’s claims about his very ugly departure from the club, even describing a fist-fight with director of sport Cristiano Giuntoli.  

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Have your say...
When you still have sevilla who are masters in this competition along with chelsea and arsenal who for all their woes actually have the best players in the competition and a record of almost 20 years since the last team parma winning the competition no it is not open at all.

Still i do favour napoli to get past salzburg who are actually a serious decent team worthy of some respect this isn't going to be a easy game for napoli.

As for frankfurt they at least stand a evens chance.
on the 23rd February, 2019 at 2:19pm
As you all know I despise the Serie A league where all teams have an average age of 30. But I will admit Napoli are the favourites to win the el this season. The era of Spanish domination is coming to an end in this competition (mark my words in your diary) and Napoli will land the title this time I feel. Though I hate the thoughts of it! Chelsea are a joke of a club and Arsenal much the same. e frankfurt will punish Inter though - rest assurred on that.
on the 23rd February, 2019 at 3:27am
FERBAN
Certainly not hyped about any PL team. The only hing PL teams have is luck and they run until the final whistle. Something Serie A teams never do.
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 9:42pm
You mean ADL deserves or what?
Players loosing to Fiorentina 3:0 and drawing with Torino 2:2 and Sassuolo 1:1 deserve something more than being runners-up in Serie A?
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 7:39pm
Really hoping Napoli can pull it off. They deserve to win something.
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 5:19pm
Being Napoli fan I bet for Sevilla, but who knows...
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 4:02pm
sure jeremy, especially now with the way bith Arsenal and Chelsea are playing lol
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 10:42am
@Jeremy Yeah the Mighty World Beating Juggernauts of Chelsea & Arsenal. Everyone should be scared of them, right except Bournemouth & BATE?
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 10:35am
The EL is more realistic for Italian teams. Juve are the only CL contender and, barring a big performance v AM, they're gone and their season over with it

Napoli have as good a squad as anyone in the EL, and should be going all-out to win this trophy seeing as they have nothing else to play for

Inter have a chance too, but are a club that has turned into another Roma, and you just know they'll mess it up somewhere along the line

Napoli,Sevilla,Arsenal,Chelsea,E Frankfurt look like favourites
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 10:14am
@ Jeremy

Don't believe the hype about the epl. Yes, they are a threat and would probably beat Inter who are often in one stage of some never-ending crisis, but the Spanish teams are far stronger overall.
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 10:07am
Chelsea or Arsenal will kill off Nspoli and Inter.
on the 22nd February, 2019 at 7:40am

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