Atalanta did the double over Napoli last season. They knocked them out of the Coppa Italia earlier this month. A trip to Bergamo was the classic fixture where the Partenopei would usually drop points. Beating La Dea home and away is a further sign that this is not the usual Napoli.
Last Sunday, Atalanta were hoping to play the role of spoilers, as they slowed down the game, turning it into a physical battle. However, two moments decided the match. A shrewd pass from Jose Callejon set Dries Mertens free to rifle in to the target for the home side, while Pepe Reina performed a brilliant save to stop Bryan Cristante from equalizing.
If you think that's the only ugly win Napoli clinched, refresh your memory with Daniele De Rossi's error causing Roma to suffer Lorenzo Insigne's goal, with La Magica hitting the bar twice that night. Or the ball from the spot that won them the Udinese fixture and an unawarded penalty that could have leveled their game with Walter Zenga's Crotone.
For the previous two seasons, Napoli were displaying intoxicatingly addictive football as they casually spread passes and broke lines with relative ease, leaving the three attackers to showcase their tricky dribbling and scintillating performances with either Gonzalo Higuain or Mertens bringing the numbers in style.
The scenario of leaving the forward trio to carry the club on their shoulders proved to be entertaining, yet fragile. It was something that pushed the mastermind Sarri to switch his fluid style of play to a rigid one, setting his determination on the most prestigious Italian trophy.
The Partenopei broke the mould this season, offering masterclasses in the art of defence, fiercely denying all Serie A opposition the chance to disrupt their wall at the back. Napoli have only conceded 13 goals this season, 11 fewer than at this stage last term, and the best defensive record in the league.
Sarri's boys have barely put a foot wrong this season and if it wasn't for set pieces and penalties, the Azzurri would have allowed only six goals in.
If all the previous words are ringing any bells, you are right, it's a copybook similar to the six-time Scudetto winners in black and white, an implemented winning mentality of "no matter how" it is done.
Sarri rarely rotates his squad, but when he’s out of the Coppa Italia and paying precious little attention to the Europa League, that’s not really going to be an issue.
If Napoli really have learned when to turn on the style and how to win ugly when necessary, then we are looking at genuine Scudetto favourites here.
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