Sunday March 18 2018
See-through Sarri

Maurizio Sarri has downplayed his side’s worth, but he's fooling nobody. Napoli are a genuine threat to Juventus, writes Nick Valerio.

Emotions are running high in Naples, after the heart-breaking defeat at the hands of Roma and the frustrating stalemate with Inter. The Partenopei players look shattered, both mentally and physically, but it’s Coach Maurizio Sarri who has come under the microscope.

The Italian is a fiery character who never holds back, and his recent post-match interviews were a recipe for disaster. Sarri hit the headlines for his comments towards a female reporter and the ex-Empoli boss is clearly feeling the heat. This was the second public spat in as many weeks, unsurprisingly coinciding with Napoli losing their grip on the top of the table. 

The goal-less draw with the Nerazzurri has knocked the stuffing out of the former front-runners and the swagger running throughout the side is temporarily lost.

Sarri’s words do not match his actions and this has been a recurring theme throughout the campaign. After the loss to the Lupi, he insisted Juventus are “the only contenders to win the Scudetto”, but the Neapolitan is fooling no one, especially as his side have led for almost the entire season.

If the Partenopei were a distant second best in Sarri’s eyes, why did he rest star forward Dries Mertens, first choice midfielders Jorginho and Allan for the opening match of the Champions League group stages? The Italian’s intentions were clear as early as mid-September when the season was still in its infancy.

Similarly, he rested a host of first-teamers in the Europa League Round of 32 defeat against RB Leipzig. The players haven’t hidden their ambitions of securing a first Scudetto in 28 years and Sarri’s team selections further indicate this priority.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Napoli to stay out in front, but the defeatist attitude of the Azzurri boss is not helping. The Bianconeri have European duties to navigate, while Napoli can focus solely on their league dream. Moreover, the two clubs will also face off in a heavyweight encounter on April 22 and, provided Napoli can get back to winning ways, they could yet claim back top spot from Max Allegri’s team.

Sure, this is a good Bianconeri side, but it arguably isn’t as good as previous years. In comparison, this thrillingly excellent group of Napoli stars are all at their peak, and the likes of Mertens, Jorginho and Faouzi Ghoulam may not stick around for another campaign of finishing second best. Sarri’s job is to lift his troops, and treating his dedicated group as if they are part of a mid-table outfit is disrespecting not only the men who have given their all, but also the passionate people of Naples who are desperate for glory.

The difference between the top two sides in the division could be just two points by Sunday evening and we are at a stage now where the result is far more important than style. Napoli need to mix it up and show their grit, and, more importantly, Sarri needs to admit it’s not all over just yet.

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Have your say...
A few injuries and Napoli is doomed..........

Not even Reina wants to stay with them, opting instead for a team with "BLAQSONE" but in clear disarray.

Other players are already thinking to move on to greener pastures.

Not a good omen for the run in.
on the 19th March, 2018 at 4:34pm
@ Me

Why don't you say this to Barcelona:

"If you cannot defeat UD LAS PALMAS, you are not La Liga winner material. Barcelona will lose La Liga and get slaughtered in UCL by Roma."

You are one of the dumbest Juve haters I've ever seen.
on the 19th March, 2018 at 11:27am
I truly believe tonight's match against Genoa will be decisive for Napoli! If they win, they'll show they have a real character & potential for champions and that all the sacrifices they'd made (mainly in European competitions) weren't in vain. As I've said previously, Napoli has easier schedule till the end (only Milan away), with a final face-off with Juve away! But Juve first has to face Milan home, Inter & Roma away. So clearly, mainly Napoli holds its own fate!
on the 18th March, 2018 at 8:07pm
With Juve drawing against Spal, it is once again up to Napoli to have destiny in their own hands. A vitory this evening puts them 2 points off Juve meaning the game vs Juve would be the title decider (if both teams dont lose remaing games - quite possible). Once again, I will wait and see if Napoli have a killer instict, if they really really want the scudetto or if they are losers given their recetn attitude. The ball is totally in their court....again
on the 18th March, 2018 at 6:55pm
If Leicester would have started to view themselves as champions because of their points lead they would have failed. I think Sarri is adopting a similar mental approach to Claudio's, and I believe it the proper way right now. If Napoli succeeds in winning the title, then next season a more concrete winners mentality should be taken on. Juve are clear favorites for the title this season, so Napoli needs to stay humble, but also believe in their ability to achieve the task at hand.
on the 18th March, 2018 at 5:01pm
I respectfully disagree with the premise of the article. As underdogs, I think it's important for Napoli to stay grounded. They have some great players, but they're not accustomed to winning like Juve are. The players must understand the difficulty of the winning, and with this understanding will be forced to play hard and focus on every game. When players start viewing themselves as champions before they have won it leads to complacency. I'd point to Ranieri's triumph with Leicester.
on the 18th March, 2018 at 4:57pm
Napoli got thrown a lifeline with Juve draw but it will only last if They can WIN every remaining game. Then they NEED to beat Juve on April 22 to have a chance with 1 point ahead again. Idk seems to much pressure on the already fatigued boys and Sarri played himself with his tactics. If Juve get knocked by Madrid look out, they will take it out on Napoli. Higuain will stab their hearts again
on the 18th March, 2018 at 3:27pm
As for Juve not beating SPAL, it means nothing, SPAL had zero shots on or off goal, they were defending only. There's good defense in offensive play, and then there's the coward's way; SPAL took the coward's way.

Any team that refuses to play in more than one tournament at a time doesn't deserve the title "Champions".
on the 18th March, 2018 at 2:08pm
He just wants to take the heat off and cover his own backside.

And Sarri having a "defeatist attitude"? What else is new?


Haha if Juve is not Scudetto material then who is? The team that intentionally get themselves knocked out of competitions?
Run along.
on the 18th March, 2018 at 11:38am
Very funny to see a bashing like "Juve not Scudetto material because they couldn't beat SPAL". Where were you when they won the previous 12 matches? And conceding only 1 in the process! Juve is still top of Serie A with a 5-point cushion. The pressure is now on Napoli, they will crumble like many times before. A team need winning mentality to go all the way, through pain and fatigue and all sorts of difficulties. Napoli never had such mentality and that's why they fall every March. No chance!
on the 18th March, 2018 at 10:47am
"Sure, this is a good Bianconeri side, but it arguably isn’t as good as previous years." Wow, talk about third-rate journalism mixed with extra saltiness for taste... This writer forgets that the crux of this squad had been winning domestic doubles every year for the past 3 years, whereas Napoli's world-beaters are left holding their hands year-after-year. How do people live with so much ignorance, I wonder.
on the 18th March, 2018 at 10:38am
If you cannot defeat SPAL, you are not Scudetto material. Juve will lose Serie A and get slaughtered in UCL by Real.
on the 18th March, 2018 at 7:21am

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