Athletic Bilbao got a key away goal in the first leg in Italy, and now return home where they'll be favored in the soccer betting odds. We've examined Wednesday's upcoming matchup and believe we've found the best value with our picks.
Soccer betting odds have the Lions trading in the +105 to +115 range on their home turf, leaving Napoli as the +250 to +275 underdog. A draw can be found at roughly +240.
First Leg Result
For a while there, it looked like Athletic Bilbao was on their way to a historic win at Napoli in the first leg. They took the advantage through Iker Muniain in the 41st minute, but the Italian outfit got back level thanks to Gonzalo Hiquain.
Nonetheless, Bilbao will be loving their chances now that they've recorded a crucial away goal. Will they get the job done at home?
Just days after stamping out an impressive 1-1 draw against Napoli, the Lions were unable to carry over their new-found momentum into their La Liga opener, as they fell 1-0 to Malaga away from home.
Bilbao started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which featured Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Rico in the holding roles, Markel Susaeta, Benat and Muniain further up the field, and Aritz Aduriz as the lone striker. However, they were unable to find a breakthrough against Malaga's well-disciplined defense, and therefore left their opener without even a point.
In what's expected to be a very competitive race in the top half of the La Liga, any and all points are pivotal for teams like Athletic Bilbao, so they'll be disappointed not to have gotten anything from the trip.
That being said, now the focus completely shifts to Champions League qualifying, as this upcoming fixture against Napoli is make-or-break. Aduriz, who scored 16 league goals last season, will be the danger man for Bilbao on Wednesday.
In 2013-14, the Blues finished third in Serie A while winning the Coppa Italia and reaching the Round of 16 in the Europa League.
They've yet to begin their 2014-15 league campaign, so Napoli will be able to put their entire efforts into preparing for this hugely important qualifying clash. It wasn't the best of performances in the first leg, but the Blues should be a lot more prepared for the second encounter.
We know who the targets are for Napoli. Hiquain is a terrific goalscorer who always puts himself in good positions, while the likes of Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon are highly capable of finding the back of the net as well.
What we do know: Napoli can't afford a 0-0 draw now that they've conceded at home in the first leg. They must score at least once, so it'll be up to that potent attack to come through.
Champions League Pick
Neither of these teams wants to go down to the Europa League pool. Tensions are going to be extremely high and the atmosphere in Bilbao will be something to behold. The fans know how important they'll be to the cause against a team like Napoli.
How do we expect this one to pan out?
Well, believe it or not, we believe Napoli is the side worth taking in this Champions League qualifying battle extraordinaire. The Blues have some true quality with the likes of Hiquain, Callejon and Hamsik, so they certainly have the firepower to at least put one in the back of the net.
Let's therefore add Napoli to your soccer picks at a very attractive underdog price to win and advance on to the group stages.
Soccer Pick: Athletic Bilbao 1 Napoli 2
Aggregate: Athletic Bilbao 1 Napoli 2