Saturday March 3 2018
Don't stop believing, Napoli

Napoli received a potentially fatal double blow in the Scudetto race from Juventus and Roma, but Giancarlo Rinaldi assures it's by no means over yet.

There was a chill wind blowing around the Stadio San Paolo. Unlike much of Europe, however, it had nothing to do with the Beast from the East. They have a very different rhyming demon on their minds in Naples these days - the Scary Bianconeri.

All the roads to the Scudetto led to Rome on Saturday night. A late, late Paulo Dybala strike gave Juventus victory over Lazio in a match that for long spells provided less buzz than a flask full of chamomile tea. Somebody with the stats will tell you exactly how many times La Vecchia Signora has broken an opponent’s heart like that.

The echoes of that goal rippled through the Napoli fans, putting them on edge as their game kicked off. In this incredible fight for the title, even a couple of dropped points could be fatal to either of the sides who have dominated this league like grown men taking on schoolboys, and both teams know it.

An early Lorenzo Insigne goal should have settled their nerves, instead it set them jangling like a triple espresso.

And yet, no matter how emphatic Roma’s victory was, the Partenopei should not lose heart - at least on the evidence of this game. If there was a night when everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong, this was it. Poor wee Mario Rui had one of his best games ever for the Giallorossi, with a deflected goal and an unintentional assist, but unfortunately for him, he happened to be wearing a light blue shirt.

Some will argue, of course, that this result was a symptom of the immaturity and inexperience of Maurizio Sarri’s side. Called to another test of their title resolve, they flopped in spectacular fashion. However, they remain firmly in the hunt for the Scudetto no matter how much this loss must have hurt. The mark of true champions is how quickly they shake off such a setback.

It is hard, though, to win a league crown the way the Neapolitans are trying to go about it. They attempt to impose their play on others, dominate matches and rely on a relatively small core of key players. That places great stress on those vital elements and also requires an intensity of effort that a side prepared to take a breather and let their opponents make the play might not have to expend. Over the course of a season, that can take its toll.

There was something missing from their play on Saturday night. Maybe it was Marek Hamsik consigned to the bench for much of the game due to illness. Perhaps it was something a little too frenetic in their efforts to secure another vital win. Possibly it was the thought of that black and white beast waiting to pounce.

Credit, too, to Roma who were prepared to soak up pressure and pounce with a brutal and beautiful efficiency. The good news for Napoli is that they won’t have to play Edin Dzeko in this kind of mood in the remaining weeks of the season. The bad news is that the psychological scars of this defeat may take some time to heal.

Yet the cheers of the San Paolo at the end of this harsh lesson should act as the best possible medicine. They remain top of the table with a head-to-head clash to come that means their fate is still in their own hands.

This was a setback, of course, and possibly even a fatal one. However, Juve have shown over the years that winning titles is as much about mental strength as it is about your physical, technical and tactical efforts.

It is up to Dries Mertens and company to show that they still have faith that the way they want to play the game is the right method to take the Scudetto. It won’t be easy, but they can still write their own place in history. The Greats Who Ended a 28-year Wait has a nice ring to it. It is up to these players to believe they can live up to that epithet and make it happen.

Have your say...
@a Varsavia - Napoli fan I say Napoli IS able to play better football and DOES. To win scudetto, Napoli needs to show grit against all the upcoming games left especially against Juventus.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 5:40pm
As Napoli fan I say Napoli is not able to play better football. To win scudetto, Napoli needs Juventus and Roma playing worse.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 12:12pm
Mikkel you want Napoli to build a new stadium in the heartland of the Camorra?Really?It would be a mess.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 11:13am
@Rory Scullion Id rather win the CL. Winning the Serie A with no competition does not do it for me. They have to prove it where it matters and not choke in the final. I watched the game when they beat Ajax in 96 I been waiting for too long. I see Chelsea win a CL I see Porto, all the trash English teams. Get beat by Real and Barca. Now PSG is on its way.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 2:29am
pt 3: Napoli needed a 4 point cushion coming into face Juve "just in case". Right now Lazio and Milan have a better attitude than them...they poured resources into EL and even the Coppa (even with major games vs Juve and Inter) because they wanted to win and honour any trophy. You're telling me Napoli couldnt beat Leipzig? Please! Loser Loser attitude has done them in. They were so timid vs Roma; it's like they were hoping Lazio would have a result vs Juve and didnt get it so got nervy
on the 5th March, 2018 at 3:07pm
pt2: And Juve's win is no is what they are made of, it’s what they do and have been doing for some time now.
Napoli consigned themselves to winning the remaining games in Serie A and that was always going to be too difficult for only a great starting XI to pull off - they have no bench. Juve is too deep. Although Napoli has matured from last year, they still needed a winning mentality. Make no mistake, Juve will beat them when they face each other
on the 5th March, 2018 at 3:02pm
A truly, truly loser attitude from Napoli. And it stemmed from their Europa League game. You play to win. And when the coach comes out and says they dont really care about EL, i think that had a knock on effect on players. Heck, even fans didnt even show up for EL - a trophy they could have won. Putting all your eggs in one basket is a recipe for disaster. This is Juve we are speaking of. they dont let off; they score goals in the 90th minute like against Lazio...
on the 5th March, 2018 at 2:58pm

Boiling point
on the 5th March, 2018 at 11:35am
From a Napoli fan

The league is done and dusted.

Juve will continue to win the league like Bayern in Germany.

Have fun.
on the 5th March, 2018 at 9:16am
Its ok rafel its ok we know you are an idiot on a quest to become a super extreme idiot and the idiot force is very strong with you and all but there is still time to kinda save youself. Simple information is all you require i would say. But its you and your dumb soooooo.
on the 5th March, 2018 at 3:31am
@Beppe . Direct your comment to captain idiot pls. We all know who it is lol and that fool started it with the usual idiocy anyway .
on the 5th March, 2018 at 3:07am
@ Rafel. No son settle down. Only one idiot has been unmasked here and that award goes to you for being childish and stupid . Carry on loser
on the 5th March, 2018 at 3:04am
To be the best you have to beat the best. Juve has obviously been the best in Italy. I see no other teams keeping up with Juve and Napoli have it all to play for. Regardless of your thoughts on how their season has gone, Napoli have a scudetto pact, not a CL, EL or Coppa pact, you may think its thinking small, but that’s all the team have wanted. I just hope they can break the Juve dominance and bring some equilibrium to what has been a fantastic season of Serie A.
on the 5th March, 2018 at 1:17am
Come on folks, Let's give it a rest just for today huh?
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:20pm
They exited EL on purpose and DON'T deserve playing in Europe.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:05pm
Napoli need a modern new 50.000 seater stadium like Juve. Before they get that it's difficult to win. Don't get it why Italian teams don't look 5-10 years forward and begin building. Napoli can build a modern arena for 120-150 mill.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:02pm
@ Anonymous 2:07 PM. You've proven again and again that you are immature and that you're only here to provoke others. But anyway, I don't really care what you say, since YOU are probably 16 and you're mirroring what you are on other people and you have a hard time writing correctly, so I think the child (you) has been unmasked!
on the 4th March, 2018 at 9:07pm
@Rafel . Yup your last comment proves you are a little child lolol. It seems the comment has made you angry for some reason and you dont know how to respond so you say the easiest thing there is to say. Hahahhaha what a sad little kid. Its ok clearly you dont know anything about history of most football clubs as you are probably 16 yrs old if so much. I hope you are that age becuase if not, the world is a very very sad place now lol
on the 4th March, 2018 at 3:07pm
This is self-inflicted harm done by Sarri's fundamentalism, believing in the "Totti of Napoli" what a load of rubbish, the guy is not even suited for serie C1, he can't cross and shoot with the left, he can't dribble, he is a selfish little brat. Italy is the only country where the media make a star, even if they are rubbish, everyone agrees on the opposite, because by repeating "Il magnifico" he will evntaully becomes just taht, Pffff...
on the 4th March, 2018 at 2:31pm
Napoli has the same problem since the arrival of Sarri which I reiterate again and again, "INSIGNE", not only he is bad, he has always been an extra player given to the opposition. No wonder why the entire system and journalists praise him, and gave him as man of the match, as long as he is untouchable, Napoli would never win anything, he brings disharmony to the team,and he is s bad... I said this 3 years ago.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 2:22pm
R.I.P Astori
on the 4th March, 2018 at 1:20pm
@ Anonymous 1:32 am: Stop talking you're making a fool of yourself (which you are anymway). Take a hike troll.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 1:17pm
For the fact that they have thrown games in other competitions so they could get knocked out and focus on Serie A, they don't deserve the title. I don't even want to see them in the Top 4 because teams like Milan and Inter will field strong teams in Europe and would never be a disgrace like Napoli. As for Juve, we were winning nothing 8 years ago, where were you haters then? Keep cutting down those tall poppys, we will keep winning titles.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 1:00pm
For the fact that they have thrown games in other competitions so they could get knocked out and focus on Serie A, they don't deserve the title. I don't even want to see them in the Top 4 because teams like Milan and Inter will field strong teams in Europe and would never be a disgrace like Napoli. As for Juve, we were winning nothing 8 years ago, where were you haters then? Keep cutting down those tall poppys, we will keep winning titles.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 12:59pm
It has been been good watching Napoli make this an interesting season in Serie A whilst most other national leagues,England,France,Spain,Germany,are all wrapped up.
However I assumed eventually Juve would take over and now they will.Napoli will drop further points next week against Inter and that will be it.Yet another Juve league win.How boring.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:56am
In the first half this season Napoli play beautiful football. In second half of the season they play same style (with same player). Predictable, monotonous and boring. No one could make the extraordinary...
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:52am
I don't think squad depth is the issue more like the mental strength of key players. Mertens always seems to freeze in big games. The only 1 that seems to carry the fight in big games is Insigne. I do feel if Mertens had that chance against Lazio that Dybala scored, he'd have fluffed it. Like most have said surrendering in EL was quite stupid as victories breed confidence no matter the size of your squad. Lets face it this race is over irrespective of how Juve get on in CL as they can handle it.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:43am
Ard: you are an embarrassment. How can any self respecting Juve supporter seriously say they wanted Napoli to win the Scudetto? I watched both matches back to back last night and the elation to see the 93rd minute winner in conjunction with Roma's surgical dismantling of Napoli made it the best night's viewing of the year. How in God's name can you call youself a Juve supporter? Your views are anathema to all associated with Juve. "Vincere non è importante è l’unica cosa che conta"
on the 4th March, 2018 at 11:18am
Napoli has been running for their lives the entire season, and the fear is getting to them. Juventus has a game in hand, and if they win it, it's over for Napoli.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 10:56am
the only problem with napoli is that they dont have squad depth once they start running out of steam they tend to flatter.....i love napoli style of football but to be honest they just dont have that winning aura in them like juventus has....still tough games to come i am sure napoli will drop further points regardless of juve playing champions league.....teams eyeing for champions league spot will give it all and will make life tough for both juve and nap so yeah we have a grand finale...
on the 4th March, 2018 at 10:05am

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