|Nap (106) @ pinnacle|
10* Napoli (2:30 ET): In the race for the four Champions League spots in Serie A, the “dropoff” (in terms of points) seems to be around eight or ninth place. Beyond that, no club has a realistic shot of catching the current top four. However, goal differential paints a narrower picture with just five teams well ahead of the pack. Currently in fifth is Napoli with 60 points and a GD of +31. Right behind them (in sixth) is Lazio, last season’s overachievers, with 58 points but a GD of only +10. I think that this match Thursday is an excellent chance for the home side (Napoli) to put some distance between them and their fellow competitors.
Napoli’s GD is right on par with the teams they are chasing. While they are not going to catch Inter Milan for the Scudetto (no one is), finishing second in Serie A is within reach for the Partenopei. Second place Milan (66 points) lost Wednesday and both third place Juventus and fourth place Atalanta have very similar YTD goal differentials (+35 and +34). Napoli trails those clubs by five and four points respectively. They have a much better GD than Milan’s +22 and a higher expected point total as well. Over the past two months, the only Serie A side with fewer defeats than Napoli is Inter, who they just played to a 1-1 draw last week.
Lazio is also in good form, having won five on the bounce in Serie A. But that good form is an obvious byproduct of facing weak competition. Last week’s wild 5-3 win over floundering Benevento was yet another win over a bottom of the table side. They’ve also previously beaten Verona, Spezia, Udinese and Crotone - all by one goal apiece. It was a stoppage time goal that beat Verona 1-0 two weeks ago. Other than that, every team Lazio has beaten during the current win streak is currently 12th or lower in the table. Napoli has revenge here for a 2-0 loss in the reverse fixture back in December. They’ll get it. 10* Napoli.