Europa League Picks & Tips: Porto vs. Napoli

Steven Suarez

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 1:07 PM GMT

We've reached the Round of 16 in the Europa League and will be treated to a great tie for our soccer picks featuring Napoli and Porto. Who will get off to a fast start in the first leg?

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Odds Overview

Most soccer betting sites out there have the Dragons favored at either +115 or +120 for the first match of this two-leg tie. Napoli is being given a realistic chance of winning too though and can be backed at anywhere from +220 to +250. A draw, which would be a great result for the Italian side, is available at roughly +240 on the soccer odds board.

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FC Porto

The Dragons are currently ranked third in the Portuguese Liga. They're close behind Sporting Lisbon, but Benfica is running away from the pack and has built up a nine-point cushion atop the table.

Porto will enter Thursday's match fresh off a 4-1 drubbing of Arouca, with Ricardo Quaresma netting a brace and Carlos Eduardo and Jackson Martinez also scoring goals.

As for their European adventure so far, the Dragons weren't able to advance in a tough Champions League group that featured Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg and Austria Vienna. In their first Europa League tie, they advanced on away goals in a thrilling 5-5 aggregate draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Individually speaking, the Brazilians have been the most instrumental figures for Porto this term, aside of course from Martinez.

Goalkeeper Helton has been a mainstay, while defenders Danilo and Alex Sandro and midfielder Fernando have been prominent in the starting XI. Martinez, though, is the top goalscoring threat (15 goals in league play so far) and you better believe Rafael Benitez will have something in mind to try and stop the striker.

Napoli

After scooting past Swansea City in the latest round of the Europa League, the Blues have tied Livorno away (1-1) and beaten Roma (1-0) at home.

Considering it was only Roma's second league loss of the entire season, it was a fabulous result for Napoli, who are still firmly in third place in the standings. They're 10 points clear of fourth-place Fiorentina at the moment, all but assuring them a place in the Champions League in 2014/15.

The Blues were also unable to advance out of their CL group this season, as they finished behind Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal in one of the most difficult groups of the entire competition. Now Napoli will try to advance on to the Europa League quarter-finals after beating the Swans 3-1 on aggregate.

Bringing Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid has paid immediate dividends for the club. He leads the team with 13 league goals and seven assists.

Spanish striker Jose Maria Callejon has also been a menace to opposing defenses, scoring 10 goals in Serie A play so far, while Napoli has others like Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens and Goran Pandev who can make things happen going forward.

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Europa League Pick

As far as the Europa League goes, this is one of the better fixtures you're bound to get. It may be the second-tier competition in Europe, but these are two very strong teams, which should make for splendid viewing this Thursday and the following week back in Naples.

Porto knows they need a positive result in front of their own fans to set them up nicely for the return trip, but we're not sold on their chances of winning outright.

The Blues are coming off a huge win over Roma and Rafael Benitez will have his team set up right. We look for the visitors to get at least a draw in the first leg for our soccer picks.

Soccer Pick: Porto 1 Napoli 1