Dries Mertens celebrating with his team-mates on the touchline after his decisive goal in the 4-2 victory at Sampdoria is typical of the spirit and togetherness that has seen Napoli storm to the top of the Serie A title. It was in dedication to Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chabolah who recently lost his mother a a nice touch to show that there is much more to life than football, even though they have put themselves in a wonderful position to end Juventusa dominance and end a 26-year wait for the Scudetto.
Five straight wins have put Maurizio Sarria s team two points clear at the top, with the former Empoli manager breathing a new lease of life throughout a team that have always looked capable of competing for the title, yet ultimately fallen short when the pressure to deliver grew. He has transformed the entire dynamics of how Napoli play, with clinical attacking movement combined with a rock-solid defence within a 4-3-3 system that is getting the very best from the players at his disposal. This seasona s statistics proved that point; Napoli are far and away the highest scorers in Serie A this season, while only Inter Milan and Juventus have a better defensive record. Just one defeat in the twenty league games since the opening day loss at Sassuolo is another illustration of just how good Napoli have been this season, with the crushing 4-0 win at AC Milan in early October a sign of what the Partenopei are truly capable of.
Juventus were always likely to be favourites for the Scudetto on Coral and any other football odds site as their dominance of Italian football threatens to extend into its fifth season, so it is perhaps refreshing from a purista s perspective that Napoli have emerged as real contenders to challenge the Bianconeri. Massimo Allegria s side have stormed up the table in ominous fashion following a surprisingly slow start to the season, with eleven straight victories serving a serious warning to Napoli that they will make them fight all the way for the 2015/2016 Serie A title. It remains to be seen how Sarri and his team handle the pressure of having Juventus breathing down their necks, but the fact they have scored twelve goals in their last three games would indicate that
Gonzalo Higuain on fire
Some may have been surprised by Gonzalo Higuaina s decision to swap Real Madrid for Naples in the summer of 2013, but the 28-year-old has become one of the most feared strikers in Italy. The Argentine international has formed a wonderful strikeforce at the front of a three-man attack, with Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne adding searing pace and skill on either side of a frontman who has made a career from being a true predator inside the box.
Twenty-one games in as many Serie A games this season puts him amongst the most in-form strikers in world football, with his clinical finish which opened the scoring against Sampdoria proving just how good he has been in front of goal. It is the sort of purple patch that any striker worth their salt would dream to be in; Coral have unsurprisingly backed Higuain as favourite to score in their next game against Sarria s former employers Empoli who have kept just one clean sheet from their last five league fixtures. Napoli will need Higuain to carry his rich vein of form throughout the rest of the season if they are to have any chance of maintaining their wonderful pace and sprint clear of the chasing pack.
Can Napoli maintain the pace?
Napoli have won many admirers across Europe for the quality of football they have played this season, but it remains to be seen if they have the mentality to pass the acid test and keep the momentum going between now and the end of the season. Recent history would suggest that their chances are not great; the Partenopei, then managed by Walter Mazzarri, put themselves in a wonderful position in 2012/2013, only to finish runners-up behind Juventus as the odd slip at the wrong times proved costly in their pursuit of Juventus. A number of third-placed finishes would also suggest that Napoli have lacked the mentality and guile to end their long wait for a Scudetto, but there is real excitement in Naples that the current crop of players have what it takes to stop the Old Lady from making it five titles in a row.