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.

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Have your say...
Beast from the East?
on the 4th March, 2018 at 9:43am
I am a Juventus fan and of course I want Juventus to win the title. But I did like Napoli except the hypocrite owner. But the disgusting and shameless exit in the euro league changed my mind and I don’t like Napoli anymore. U can’t lose and insult your supporters like this.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 9:08am
too many hate in Serie A
on the 4th March, 2018 at 7:54am
I’m stunned. I can’t believe how Napoli fell apart, crumbled mentally. Without a shadow of a doubt, the late Dybala goal ruined Napoli. One minute they felt they would be going 6 points clear, then all of a sudden all the pressure got to them, in fact suffocated them.
No, the league is not done yet, but Napoli must now do the impossible: go to Juve and win. I can’t see it happening. Still, a great Napoli!
on the 4th March, 2018 at 7:36am
Napoli fans, PLS DON'T STOP CRYING! Because It's always hilarious to see you like that in Sao Paolo. Especially, when Higuain humiliates you many times.

Why do you cry anyway??? Do you really think you will win the scudetto with that kind of mentality? You're a laughing stock and a disgrace when you exit the CL without a fight. Serie A will be a joke for the rest of the world if you win the league. That's why only a fool and spiteful Serie A fans want you to win it.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 7:06am
HAHAHAHHA Game over Napoli, go back to your mid table
on the 4th March, 2018 at 6:35am
to all juve fans: it's dangerous to consider it is over. i agree that whether napoli won this one or not they'll probably collapse next year, but they are a little leicester this season. we really need to stay focus and humble. they don't necessarily lost their faith atlanta isn't a done deal.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 4:32am
Im a Juve fan but wanted Napoli to win the scudetto this year. Juve needs to focus on the CL. Unfortunately Napoli don't have the depth or good enough squad to win. Hopefully we'll have a more balanced Serie a in the coming years because now its ridiculous, its unwatchable not much quality out there except for Juve.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 3:01am
This was a disastrous weekend for Napoli, the bottlers losing to the bottlers. Coupled with Dybala's stunning skill and determination for his winner, and Napoli are in serious trouble now.

They might well have to win in Turin now to have any chance.

It'll be interesting to see if Allegri lets Juve off the leash v Spurs. If they can cancel out Spurs' 2 away goals, they'll have a real shot of going through.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 3:01am
Anyways back to the more sensible ppl on this blog . I dont think napoli are out of it just yet as we still have a pretty tough run of games against the top teams coming up. Roma and milan are improving and inter and napoli will be hard games to win. However i believe in my team. Forza juve!
on the 4th March, 2018 at 2:40am
@rafel... yes yes thanks for pointing that out again and again . I am sure the team you support gets to the cl final every year and wins their respective league every year also because it is soooo easy right? I am sure the team you support would have stopped msn in 2015 even though they scored about 150 goals between them in that season and im sure your team would have beaten madrid with nobodys like cr7 and bale and marcelo. Probably not though.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 2:32am
"No team that purposely gets knocked out of other competitions has the mentality and grit to win the league."

Well said.

Sarri is already whining and making excuses. Same as ADL always did.
You can't win with a mentality like that.

Just like how Juve couldn't win in Europe. It's all about attitude and mentality.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 2:14am
Serie A is as boring as La Liga, always the same team winning every year. I hate Juventus and I hope that Napoli can win but I think they lost the scudetto today. Anyway, as I've said before the scudetto is the only thing Juventus are able to win, when they are in a CL final, they alway fail.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 2:07am
Dum dum d dum..... this is the beginning of the end of the Neapolitan dream! Juve are coming and there is nothing they can do about it. Also I don't think napoli will be able to do this again next year, Milan lazio and Roma will all have a bigger say I think? Inter...meh! They should have invested properly in Jan, after all this was the best chance they have had since the last scudeto! Sorry guys but u r just not good enough....
on the 4th March, 2018 at 1:51am
Are the other Serie A team’s not embarrassed? Why do they even bother if they’re going to tile over and let Juve win the title every year. With Asamoah at left back. Napoli have done their bit but it’s up to the other teams to actually challenge Juve. For the sake of themselves and Serie A.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 1:41am
This defeat is the beginning of the end for the villagers. Napoli will always be a bunch of pretenders with an overrated coach. No team that purposely gets knocked out of other competitions has the mentality and grit to win the league.

Your project was a failure and now you will return to being what you always were...

on the 4th March, 2018 at 1:32am
Napoli can consider themselves 1 point behind Juve already. The only hopes they have are 1) Win the head-to-head in Turin or 2) At least see Juve beat Spurs... if neither happens, it will be practically impossible for them to overtake Juve in 10 games.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 12:57am
Good in playing football, but not enough quality to win titles. Their defence always strike me as very weak.
According to their players budget and that of Juventus Turin (3 or 4x as much) they do very well and can be proud.
The place where they will end will be the place they deserverd, i hope a respectable second in the Seria A.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 12:56am
Believing is free. ;)

It's not over yet but if Napoli lose the next game and Juve wins theirs then say goodbye to the scudetto.
on the 4th March, 2018 at 12:06am
yes we can do it. forza napoli
on the 3rd March, 2018 at 11:57pm

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