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Gunners to end Napoli hopes

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  • Gunners to end Napoli hopes

    Gunners to end Napoli hopes
    Arsenal can finish off Napoli's hopes of Champions League progression on Wednesday, says our tipster Andy Schooler.

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    When the Champions League draw was made, Group F stood out as the most competitive and it hasn't disappointed.

    Heading into matchday six and no side has yet booked their place in the knockout stage with Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli all still seeking to qualify.

    Such is the nature of the pool that it could well be that all three sides end on 12 points.

    Napoli, who host Arsenal on Wednesday, are the side most likely to miss out as things stand.

    Only a three-goal victory over Arsenal will guarantee their progression. That is also the only way the Gunners will crash out too.

    Marseille could do both sides a favour by preventing Dortmund from winning in France, but given they've lost five out of five so far and have nothing to play for, it seems unlikely.

    Napoli, therefore, will simply need to attack - and that will doubtless leave them vulnerable to an Arsenal side more than capable on the break, especially if Theo Walcott is given his chance, as has been suggested.

    While their need to press forward looks fairly obvious, whether they have the ability to truly test Arsenal has to be in doubt, particularly at the moment.

    Rafa Benitez's men are on a bad run of just one win in five games - conceding eight goals in their last three - and they've also got injury problems.

    Key midfielder Marek Hamsik is missing, while goalkeeper Pepe Reina and former West Ham star Valon Behrami are both doubtful.

    OK, Napoli may well have won both home games in this competition so far but a closer look shows they defeated a Dortmund side which played with 10 men for the second half, while they also needed a late goal to see off group whipping boys Marseille.

    Throw in the fact they were outclassed by Arsenal at the Emriates and I like the look of the 2/1 you can get about an away win.

    The way the qualification scenarios are set up certainly plays into Arsenal's hands and they have the players, and the form, to finish off the Neapolitans' hopes.

    Another Italian side struggling for form are AC Milan and they could also be vulnerable on home soil.

    Milan know a draw against Ajax will be enough to send them into the last 16 but a worrying run of two wins in 10 games must be a serious concern, not least among their fans who are not adverse to making their feelings known at the San Siro.

    Patience is running thin after just four wins in 15 Serie A games so far this season but Ajax do not have such problems.

    They have won their last six, including a 2-1 victory over Barcelona which has given them a chance to qualify.

    They will need a win here but it's far from out of the question, with striker Davy Klaassen in particularly hot form right now.

    The reverse fixture really should have been won by the Dutch - a ridiculous penalty award deep into added time proved their downfall and saw Milan escape with a point.

    To me, Ajax look big here at 5/1. The market appears to be judging Milan on their name and rich history rather than the current mess which inhabits the San Siro and the Dutch look worth throwing some small change at.

    I'll take them to win, rather than having the draw-no-bet proviso as if it's all square in the closing stages, the visitors will simply have to attack.

    Chelsea are also in action on Wednesday and should gain the win they need to nail down top spot in their group.

    However, at 2/9 I'm not sure too many will be wading in to them seeing off Steaua Bucharest, who have nothing to play for.

    The Blues have been far from reliable this season and have already lost twice in the competition.

    They did win the reverse fixture 4-0 and Steaua don't appear to have the quality to seriously challenge them. However, a word of warning is that the Romanians are unbeaten in 10 since that loss.

    Given Chelsea's recent defensive woes - they've been particularly vulnerable from set-pieces - backing Steaua's leading scorer Federico Piovaccari to score at any time may not be the worst bet in the world given he's offered at 7/1.

    The other British side in action is Celtic but again they are involved in a game which means little.

    The Scots can't even claim a Europa League spot so it's hard to see them being too bothered about this, particularly with a Saturday league game looming.

    There's every chance this is a match which features two reserve sides with Barca, who still need a point to secure top spot, likely to take victory that their short price suggests.

    Score predictions:

    Napoli 1 Arsenal 2

    Chelsea 3 Steaua Bucharest 1

    Barcelona 3 Celtic 0

    Milan 0 Ajax 1

    Atletico Madrid 1 Porto 1

    Austria Vienna 0 Zenit St Petersburg 1

    Marseille 1 Borussia Dortmund 2

    Schalke 1 Basel 1