When the Europa League draw was made, all eyes turned to Arsenal and Napoli, as the two European giants were drawn together in what is expected to be one of the more interesting Europa League ties, and after the Gunners 2-0 win in the first leg there is still everything to play for on Thursday.
If you take a look at the Europa League betting odds, you will see that Napoli and Arsenal are the second and third favourites respectively. It is likely that whoever progresses from this tie will become the favourites to win, with Chelsea the current favourites at 7/4.
The return tie will be made more interesting by the fact that Napoli have Arsenal’s David Ospina on loan and the Colombian shot stopper is fit and available for selection for Thursday’s game, and after Meret conceded twice in the first leg the Arsenal man may get the nod in Naples.
In a home game against Udinese in Serie A on 17th March, Opsina suffered a head injury. Despite suffering the injury early on in the first half, the Colombian continued to play, but collapsed shortly before half time and was stretchered off and rushed to hospital.
The hospital did a CT scan on the goalkeeper and, although nothing showed up on the scan, he was kept in hospital under observation. He was released the following day but has yet to return to the Napoli line-up.
The shot-stopper was absent from Gli Azzurri’s next two games – a 4-1 win away to Roma, and a 2-1 loss away to Empoli. He returned to Napoli’s match-day squad at the Emirates but this time around he could return to the starting XI..
Fans of the club should be encouraged at seeing the Colombian return to the squad, particularly while they are juggling Serie A games with Europa League games. Hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s pulling on his gloves and featuring in goal again.
Will he play again?
His form for Napoli has been good this season. Ospina has conceded 19 goals in 21 appearances during his loan spell so far, and should Napoli decide against signing him permanently, there will no doubt be other clubs more than willing to sign him up.
Ospina himself believes that he may not play for Napoli again this season due to a clause in his contract. Regarding the clause, the Colombian said “My current situation is that I am on loan for this season and there is a clause based on a certain number of games, where if I play, the transfer will become an automatic purchase.”
It might be the case that Ospina is saved for higher profile matches, like the two upcoming games against Arsenal in the Europa League. Regular rotation between Ospina, Alex Meret and Orestis Karnezis should be enough to keep Napoli going in both their hunt for a top four finish in Serie A and for Europa League glory.
If he does play against Arsenal, it will be the perfect opportunity to prove to both his parent club and Napoli that he is deserving of a chance. Should he be able to prevent the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette from scoring, then Arsenal might just want to reconsider his future at the club, particularly with Petr Cech retiring at the end of the season.
It’s a win-win for Ospina, but not neccesarily good for Arsenal on Thursday!