Having won six titles in succession, there is definitely a pull outside of Turin, willing Napoli to overthrow Juventus in this season’s Serie A title race. You have to go back to the 2010-11 season to find a different winner of the Italian league when AC Milan won the coveted scudetto. Napoli, who have not won the title in nearly three decades, hope that this season could prove a significant breakthrough.
With free bets available, placing a wager on Maurizio Sarri’s side could prove a wise move – BetVictor’s bet £10 get £40 offer providing an attractive option for those wanting to protect their invisetments. The longer a title goes begging, the more out of reach it may seem to be. Diego Maradona was at the epicentre of Napoli’s last successful title drive in 1989-90. But it was not the Argentinian great alone who helped win the title. Gianfranco Zola and Brazilian forward Careca added further layers of flair and nuanced attacking play.
28 years on and Dries Mertens, the 30-year-old Belgium international, is leading the line, having scored 17 goals for the Naples-based side. With Lorenzo Insigne the creative fulcrum and Jose Callejon in sharp form also this season, Napoli have plenty of adroit precision in attack. This is underpinned by the solidity of Pepe Reina in goal and Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol in the centre of defence.
In midfield, 26-year-old defensive midfielder Jorginho has the perfect fusion of a dexterous passing game and a strong tackler in midfield. This was illustrated in a fine performance in early February when he was all-encompassing in a 4-1 defeat of Lazio at the Stadio San Paolo.
Question marks may have been raised recently by a defeat to Lazio. On an afternoon that started so well when Insigne gave Napoli a sixth-minute lead, there was little time to let the opening goal settle in as Cengiz Under equalised within a minute. Former Man City striker Eden Dzeko then headed the visitors ahead before making it 3-1 with a finely-taken second goal. Diego Perotti made it 4-1, so by the time Mertens scored to make it 4-2, it was merely a consolation.
If this game apparently blew the league wide open, it is still hard to look beyond Napoli and Juventus as probable champions. Despite Roma’s fine away performance, the gap between the top two and the chasing pack is sizeable.
Tight margins and various scenarios obviously make predicting a clear winner in Serie A something that can’t be done with certainty. But there is one game in which the destination of the league title winners will go a long way to being decided.
On April 22, Napoli travel to Juventus in a game that will almost certainly have the feel of a cup final about it. The visitors will be hoping there will not be a repeat of the return fixture in December.
In that game Gonzalo Higuain, courtesy of a Paulo Dybala assist, secured victory for Massimiliano Allegri’s side. The winners of the game in Turin may not be guaranteed the title on the basis of one result; but the momentum that would be garnered might make a title surge unstoppable. Sarri will be hoping it’s his side who will be the first team to prise the Italian league title from Juventus for the first time in seven seasons.