Sunday February 11 2018
The two faces of Napoli

A poor first half and an absolutely stunning second revealed Napoli’s two faces in their emphatic 4-1 victory against Lazio, writes Vilizar Yakimov

It looked like Maurizio Sarri’s players were men on a mission, and indeed they were. After a first half completely dominated by Lazio, the Partenopei were lucky to start the second on even terms, after a late Jose Callejon equaliser. Juventus’ ruthless 2-0 win against Fiorentina away from home on Friday left Napoli with no room for errors, as a wrong step against Simone Inzaghi’s team would’ve shifted the momentum of the Scudetto race in the Old Lady’s favor.

Napoli not only proved to be up to the task, but their response was simply magnificent, as it looked like a completely different team came out in the second half.

Sarri’s men were fast and direct in their ball distribution and their off the ball movements were smart and precise, which resulted in arguably their best half of football since the start of the season. The end result was three more goals scored, the complete demolition of one of Serie A best-drilled sides, as Lazio were helpless and had no answer to the Napoli avalanche, which swept them away in a blink of an eye.

Producing their best football in key moments of the season hasn’t really been Napoli’s strongest weapon in recent years, as they tend to lack the conviction and self-belief when the stakes are so high.

This was certainly not the case at the San Paolo last night and the credit should go to Maurizio Sarri, who managed to transform his side in such an important game. This can be considered a huge improvement, compared to previous seasons, as everybody knows that Napoli are capable of playing such football, but they rarely managed to do it in the big games. This is what great teams do and what Juventus have been doing for the last six years.

The comeback against Lazio would surely increase the self-belief of this Napoli side, which already looks truly capable of matching the Bianconeri’s insane tempo and taking the Scudetto battle to the wire. With their current form, it’s hard to see any of the two teams dropping points in the near future, although Juve’s Champions League obsession is Napoli’s biggest advantage. The Partenopei’s inability to compete on three fronts is actually boosting their Scudetto chances, as despite that everyone in Naples claiming that the club will respect the Europa League, we all know what their main goal is.

Although there are many more more pros than cons for Napoli to take from the Lazio game, there was one major flaw in the Partenopei’s game, as the anonymous display in the first half is something that they cannot afford. This time Sarri’s team was rather lucky not to be a goal or two down at the start of the second half and if a comeback against Lazio at home would’ve arguably been possible even then, such a display would undoubtedly be punished by the Old Lady in Turin.

It seems that Napoli keep switching on and off in certain games. In some of them they were lucky to get away with the the win, in others they turn into Jim Carrey in ‘The Mask’ to show their second face and turn the result in their favour with a stunning combination of pure magic and brilliance.

As things currently stand Napoli are their own biggest enemy, at least until April 22, when they travel to Turin for a direct Scudetto showdown against the Bianconeri. The game is already promising to be a real blockbuster and Napoli cannot afford to show their weaknesses against Juventus. Even their magic mask might not be able to help them then.

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Have your say...
Wherever Napoli finish in the table, no one can deny that their players and coach earn every euro they make. Sarri has mad a mockery of the so called “ top coaches” with his work on show every weekend as living proof.
Love watching them and it would be amazing if they manage to win it all!
on the 12th February, 2018 at 10:49am
We have to remember that not even one Naples player is ever a contender for the Golden Ball.
Not a single Naples player is even considered.
None of the Big Clubs are knocking at Naples door (seriously) to sign any of their footballers.
So it's easy to say that they are, so far, doing much better than they are expected to do.
Only time will tell if their bubble will burst or not........
on the 12th February, 2018 at 8:03am
“It doesn’t matter who wins the title this year, juventus will still be the champions of Italy”?
on the 11th February, 2018 at 11:28pm
slightly unfair lazio are a quality side if you start slow they are going to punish you as a team especially the way they are capable of dominating in the midfield at times the likes of savic can be unplayable. Still i would offer the opinion that napoli players are beginning to suffer from the strain the lack of cover in certain positions is absurd milik are barely played in 12 months along with ghoulam in such a small squad it is noticeable napoli can't afford another injury especially to a fw
on the 11th February, 2018 at 8:18pm
@Anon 5:15pm: It always will be the case that Juventus will be attacked, because losers hate winners, and because Juventus are the Champions of Italy, even when they were in Serie B, they were the Champions of Italy. It doesn't matter who wins the title this year, Juventus will still be the Champions of Italy. Juve will be the Champions of Italy forever; no team will ever usurp them.
on the 11th February, 2018 at 8:16pm
I heard Napoli fans say that VAR is the reason Juventus won't win the title by March because they can't get favors from ref's now but they still dropped only 10 points out of 72 so far and to me it looks like VAR is pushing Napoli forward just so Juventus don't run away with the title by March. For god's sake people are arguing that Fiorentina penalty should have stood because they're not as good as Juve and they needed it.Mistakes against Juve are needed but ones for them are a crime.Insanity
on the 11th February, 2018 at 6:15pm
The next 3 rounds of fixtures are huge. Juve have the tougher trips away to Torino and Lazio, and Napoli really need at least a 3 point gap going to the j stadium. Napoli will need a slip from Juve somewhere.
on the 11th February, 2018 at 5:32pm
“After a first half completely dominated by Lazio, the Partenopei were lucky to start the second on even terms, after a late Jose Callejon equalizer”. What?! Granted Napoli were not tip top, but they were still the better side even in a poor first half.
on the 11th February, 2018 at 5:25pm

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