Charlie Davies and the MLK “Embrace” in Boston, as Arsenal and Napoli are dominating their respective title campaigns.

Welcome to the Golazo Starting XI newsletter for Monday.

After a weekend filled with major derbies, Mike Goodman is here with the Golazo Starting XI newsletter. Later this week, we’ll look at a Milan Derby being played in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. women’s team beginning its World Cup preparations in New Zealand, and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may be playing out their final match. But let’s concentrate on the title battles for this Monday.

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Games for Paramount+ (all Eastern/North American):

  • Empoli vs. Sampdoria in Serie A, Monday at 2:45 p.m. (Paramount+)
  • Coppa Italia: Tuesday at 3 p.m. (Paramount+) Napoli vs. Cremonese

Important contests (all times are U.S./Eastern):

Wolves vs. Liverpool in the FA Cup, Tuesday at 2:45 p.m.
Friendly match: Tuesday at 10 p.m., New Zealand vs. USWNT.

The Leading Line

  • Napoli and Arsenal had a beautiful weekend.
  • Are the championship contests in Italy and England over? Although provocative, the query is not wholly absurd. We are just about halfway through the club season, and Arsenal and Napoli have just experienced perfect weekends. Let’s compare the current positions of the two teams.

Arsenal: With 18 games played, the Gunners lead Manchester City by eight points. Don’t look now. Both the nerd website FiveThirtyEight and Caesars Sportsbook see them as -125 underdogs to win the championship. A few months ago, this would have been unimaginable, but things are going well for Mikel Arteta’s team right now. Over the weekend, they easily defeated Tottenham, 2-0, in the North London Derby while Manchester City fell short, 2-1, to Manchester United in their own derby.

Arsenal and Napoli are running

The underlying statistics indicate a very equal contest between City and Arsenal.

While City’s underlying anticipated goals figures are marginally better than those of Arsenal, the goal difference is precisely the same at +28 and they have the advantage of having had two more penalties awarded and one fewer goal surrendered. Overall, these two squads are evenly matched. It will be extremely difficult for the team trailing by eight points to catch up in a game between two evenly matched-teams.

Napoli: The Italian league leaders’ situation is significantly better. Their closest rival going into the weekend was Juventus, who Napoli destroyed 5-1. Their next-closest challenger, AC Milan, had to overcome a two-goal deficit to draw with recently promoted Lecce. Napoli presently leads by nine points after 18 games. However, Napoli are in a situation that is even stronger than Arsenal. Arsenal is being pursued by a team that is basically on par with them: City. Nobody in Italy even comes close to them. Only Lazio in fifth place comes even close to Napoli’s goal differential (+16), which is +30. Astonishing is also the underlying xG. The only team even remotely close to their +19 xG difference is Roma (+18). Inter Milan, in fourth place, comes next at +14, followed by AC Milan at slightly under 12. Therefore, it is not surprising that Napoli is a 400/1 underdog at Caesars Sportsbook and that they have an 80% probability of winning the championship according to FiveThirtyEight. That is living your life perfectly when you have unquestionably the greatest statistics in the league AND you are in the lead.

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Play the Midfield Link

Boston’s Charlie Davies and “The Embrace”

And on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we salute Charlie Davies, a former member of the USMNT, for his contribution to the sculpture “Embrace” honoring MLK and Coretta Scott King on Boston Common, which was unveiled on Friday.

  • Davies: “Being present for the presentation of The Embrace was moving and inspiring. The Memorial will draw visitors to Boston from all over the world to start conversations about love, acceptance, and peace. I had the good fortune to oversee involvement with and donations to numerous charitable organizations throughout Boston as the Director of The Quin Impact Fund. I had the chance to donate to Embrace Boston and aid in their efforts. Hank Willis Thomas, a conceptual artist, and MASS Design Group brought this masterwork to the city in an effort to unite the locals and have a systemic effect. Being a part of this historic week was an honor.”

Arsenal and Napoli

The Reverse Line

Best options

This week hasn’t seen much activity, so let’s talk futures. Caesars Sportsbook is the source for all odds.

  • THE PICK: Arsenal to win the Premier League (-125) — I devoted a significant portion of this newsletter to explaining why Arsenal is in a strong position to win the championship. So let’s follow through on what we say. In any case, we’ll know a lot more in a month as Arsenal’s next four Premier League games include matchups versus Manchester United and Manchester City. Here, follow the picks from SportsLine.
  • The favorite to win the Champions League is Napoli (+1100). — Even the oddsmakers and, to be completely honest, I have a hard time believing in Napoli. Who am I, nevertheless, to decline +1100? Throughout the first half of the season, Napoli has performed like one of the top clubs in Europe.

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