Wednesday February 15 2017
Sarri still standing

Napoli and their audacious Coach Maurizio Sarri were beaten at the Bernabeu, but aren’t out yet, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi.

As footballing examinations go, they scarcely come more exacting. Maurizio Sarri has passed his Serie A test with flying colours, but a trip to the Bernabeu in the Champions League is the game’s equivalent of aiming for first class honours at Oxbridge. After 90 gripping minutes in Madrid, he at least has a chance of a resit in Naples next month.

The game was a classic example of the conundrum currently facing Italian sides, as the power of their domestic league has waned. The Partenopei’s bread and butter are matches where opponents are prepared to let them take the initiative and strike on the break. A visit to the reigning European champions is something else entirely.

What will have pleased their Coach is that his side stuck to its tactical guns. They refused to cover up and tried to play their way out of trouble against a high press. They paid for it once - with a Casemiro thunderbolt - but that did not seem to dim their conviction. It is a quality they will need in abundance for the return leg.

It all began so pleasingly. A neat move put Lorenzo Insigne through and he channelled his inner Diego Armando Maradona to deliver a finish that combined impudence and anticipation in equal measure. Thousands of Neapolitans in the ground dared to dream.

But football is a cruel crusher of hope and Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos struck before Casemiro’s belter. Zinedine Zidane’s men spurned chances to put the two-leg outcome entirely beyond doubt - something they might just be made to regret. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich were showing them how you kill off a tie.

Indeed, for those who like to clutch at patriotic straws, there was the odd chance of Napoli sneaking a 3-2 defeat which would have been even more turnaroundable - if I can invent that word. Dries Mertens hurried a couple of chances he would surely have taken on home soil and Jose Callejon had a goal chalked off, correctly, for offside. That might have given CR7 and company a few more sleepless moments between now and the clash in Italy.

There was just enough evidence - at least for the eternally optimistic - that the Serie A outfit could still progress to the quarter-finals, but it will take an almighty effort. Real Madrid switched off for spells of the match, but you have to make those moments count. And, of course, the danger is that anything less than perfection on your part will be pounced upon by a predatory opponent.

In some ways, a tough upcoming fixture list might help Napoli tune up to produce what will have to be their display of the season so far. After Chievo at the weekend, they have enterprising Atalanta followed by a cup clash with Juventus and a league trip to Roma before rejoining battle with their Spanish adversaries.

They have studied long and hard for this and, in three weeks’ time, they will have to prove it.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@Anonymous Anonymous is a coward way of communicatiog to start with, yu don't get it do you?
It is not up to you or to anyone else to decide who is a Napoli fan or not, as for you poor knowledge about football, just keep it to yourslef please, spare us Gazzatta regurgutated rubbish.
on the 18th February, 2017 at 12:34pm

Why don't you be a "clever boy" and learn what being "disrespectful" means, because by your comment you're clearly not on point.

Is is disrespectful to provide facts to you, as you clearly need the help? I don't have time to teach you about football, as they only allow me 500 characters.

Or, is it disrespectful to criticize the club "you support", it's manager, it's players?
"Sarri is a big loser", Insigne a "spoiled brat", ADL was right to blame Sarri"

Yep, some fan you are sir!
on the 18th February, 2017 at 6:07am
@ Maradonamac,
"Clever boy" as captain Manrin yould put it...
on the 17th February, 2017 at 11:17pm
@ Maradonamac, and to your aggressively disrespectful tone

You’ve been saying for years that Insigne is better than Mertens, who is only good a sub, you’re not saying that anymore, you should stop repeating what Gazzetta or Il Mattino tells you what to think.

Just because Insigne scored 1 goal, makes him automatically irreplaceable, that shows how much you know about football, not only that spoiled brat does nothing for 80 mins every game, but he is a liability defensively, giving @least 10 balls away per game.
1 defeat in 17 is flattering to you, but in terms of pts, all the draws Napoli made were against coaches who know exactly how to counter Sarri, a draw is not one point gained, it is 2 lost pts, and 9 pts adrift clever boy.
When I started supporting Napoli your parent’s haven’t met yet, now is it really up to you to ban me from being a Napoli fan?
on the 17th February, 2017 at 9:36pm
Since you are anonymous, I refer you to the answer I gave Maradonamac, see below. I haven’t got time for blinkered views.
on the 17th February, 2017 at 6:03pm
Wow someone that cannot spell physique is accusing someone else of lacking intelligence. Napoli did not lose because of Koulibally no matter how some people love to scapegoat to suit their agenda.
on the 17th February, 2017 at 2:39pm
Now they announce an indefinite press silence. Amateur hour. They need a safe space, I guess.
on the 17th February, 2017 at 2:04pm
Napoli should have sold Koulibaly that guy is a mess, so much physic and no intelligence.

If players remain calm and hopefull I think that Napli on its home turf had a go against RM, unless Koulibaly messes it up.
on the 17th February, 2017 at 10:58am

You've just confirmed just how little you now about Napoli, and indeed football for that matter.

Napoli PLAYED their BEST 11 against Madrid.

ADL is miles offside for saying what he said. He should be thanking the heavens for Sarri, as he is the man who put us in this position.

Insigne DESERVES his place in the team.

If Napoli are so predictable, why is this the 1st defeat in 17?

Now go away and PRETEND to be a Napoli fan.
on the 17th February, 2017 at 2:29am
@Hypocrisy - let me get this straight, you're an Inter fan and you're using the word hypocrisy in your username, unironically? did i get that right? do you even know what that word means and do you realize just how much of a hypocrite that actually makes you?
on the 16th February, 2017 at 11:24pm
The point of lack of rotation is a valid one as the likes of ;Giaccherini, Rog, Maksimovic, Tonelli, Chiceres, Strinic hardly ever played. Even Jorginho has not seen much playing time. Milik came back from injury against Bologna and despite the heavy score line did not come on nor against Genoa but somehow he was supposed to perform miracles at the Bernabeu. Sarri has done a wonderful job so we cannot be over critical of him.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 10:23pm
My point is it could've been a lot worse for Napoli while we should be aiming for a level above when facing Porto.
It doesn't mean much to say the tie's not over when I have so little faith in them. Maybe they'll surprise me.

Icardi threatened YOU with his thugs after the scandal with his biography. Your board's reaction is actually running away crying by doing nothing about it and your reaction... apparently deny it like so many other things. Delusional as usual.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 10:15pm
@Mclupo There we go again, lets bash Insigne who happened to be Napoli's only goal scorer in the game. Who in Christ's name do you think Sarri should have rotated for this game????? Insigne, Mertens and Callejon are Napoli's best attacking trident atm. Not play their best team??? So who is there best team then??? Please tell us. Some players just didn't show up plain and simple. They should have gone in as complete underdogs instead of this media hype b.s. about them troubling RM.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 10:10pm
I'm shocked at what I'm reading. Based on these comments, you'd guess that Napoli just lost to Celta Vigo. But they were playing Real Madrid - the reigning European champions and arguably the best team in the world. Not one Napoli player would start in that Madrid side.

Napoli put in a credible performance. 3-1 is a fair scoreline as both teams missed some good chances. If Napoli is to lose to RM, it's better they go out playing like this than playing scared like Roma did at home last year.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 8:56pm
@Dan Giambrone When you have ambitions, you must play your best team, everyone knows how to counter Sarri's predictable tactics. In England a corner is as important as free kick just outside the box, or a penalty, but not for Sarri, he prefers playing tic tac trying to walk into goal, he sees a corner as a burden. ADL had enough of Sarri's fundamentalism, and was right to blame him, he does not make sense. When you have untouchables as Insigne, forget winning.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 6:26pm
IN my opinion, I think that a lot of people aren't giving Napoli enough credit for their performance. Ask yourselves this question: I Napoli funded and constructed to go far in the Champions League? On the Forbes list, how far up the list is Real Madrid and how far down the list is Napoli? What CL experience does Napoli really have and furthermore Coach Sarri. I think Napoli played good, and I feel like if mertens converted the 2nd goal a lot of you guys would be singing a different tune.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 6:08pm
Sarri is a big loser, with the squad he has, any coach with a bit of sense would rotate to keep a healthy competition spirit and everyone happy. No Sarri is a fundamentalist who insists always on playing holy untouchable men like Insigne, who can't paly, and Callejon who is exhausted. One really has to be stupid not to play their best team, and Sarri is exactly that.He should go to Serie C1, he is like Benitez, a waste of time and resources.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 6:04pm
Koulibally disappointed me as he is better than what he showed. Albiol is 2nd rate somI expected that. The full backs are not up to this level so they did not surprise me. Sadly Mertens reverted to type in big games I.e better coming on as a sub. RM have too many players that can score so Napoli's task is a big one. Not sure defending so high and playing from the back is wise vs RM. Bale might be back with pace and power that Italian teams hate. Big players need to step up for once
on the 16th February, 2017 at 4:39pm
Napoli actually provided a bigger threat than I thot they would but Sarri like has been said by myself and others does the same thing against every opponent. There was an opportunity to exploit Marcello's abject lack of awareness of what is behind him by using Callejhom {who is the best off the ball runner in the world) more but he stuck to his guns. Zz will not be as attacking in the return leg so it will be very difficult. Diawara was impressive (my bad). He even made forward passes.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 4:28pm
Juventini86, Then why comment at all if Napoli should worry about it? If we can't beat Porto we deserve no place in the CL, and the board should pull the trigger on Allegri.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 4:16pm
@ Juventi - Isnt threatening thugs better than running away crying from them?
on the 16th February, 2017 at 1:54pm
3-1 is at least a respectable away result against a superior opponent. I think Napoli were lucky that they didn't concede more, but let them worry about it. We have Porto and our own demons to face.

@Hypo For some reason, Icardi worshipers are still making wise cracks. Being threatened by thugs must be a love letter to them.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 11:32am
@Maradona i'm pretty sure Casemiro was the best midfielder on the pitch last night, followed closely by Kroos and Modric
on the 16th February, 2017 at 11:20am
I said on the previous blog that experience is nine tenth of the game at this level. Coulibaly was woeful. I don't care what anyone says, but I've always found him ridiculously overrated. Got caught on positionally on numerous occasions is quite cumbersome and his mate albiol is as poor if not worse. Every time a cross went into the box, looked like they'd score. Hysaj doesn't belong at this level and Hamsik also went missing. But is it a surprise? Napoli are 9 points of Juve.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 10:44am
I see 'Big Brother' are playing the Sicilian side Palermo this weekend, there will probably be meetings planned afterwards I expect.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 5:40am
I was disappointed in 2-3 players this evening. Merten's looked like the occasion got the better of him, and our fullbacks got found out defensively. Again, a new experience for them having to defend most of the game, and against quality that they don't face in Italy.

Big credit must go to young Diawara. Best midfielder on the pitch, and if he's 19 I'm Santa Clause! What a future in the game he has.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 2:54am
3-1 was about right. Napoli put a lot into the game but Madrid's quality shone through when they needed it. Had Napoli began the 2nd half like their lives depended on it, Madrid may have got nervous.

2 things stood out for me in this game; Napoli lack leaders when the chips are down, and lacking the ability to manage the game when in a good position. Madrid are a level above Serie' A though

I love the way we play, and full marks for having a real go tonight. Tie is still alive, and kicking.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 2:18am
I was really holding hope for Napoli to get a decent result in Madrid before going all out at home but having watched this game the only thing i could berate this squad for is their defending they gave too much respect to Reals front line and got punished the game however was very entertaining and Napoli again showed that they can play beautifully but it goes without saying i would rather they played worse and gotten a win than stick to entertainment!
on the 16th February, 2017 at 2:01am
Very disappointing, but not surprising. Even though Napoli have been on a great run, many flaws were apparent. Again, we saw the side being sloppy and wasteful in the final third, whilst looking vulnerable from crosses. ADL was wrong to publicly criticize the coach & players, but I agree with what he actually said. I cannot see RM falling to score a goal or two in Italy.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 1:21am
I didn't think what ADL said was so bad. When did Italians get such thin skin? The players and Sarri should be as mad as ADL and focus on turning it around in the return leg. If they leave this game without criticism and are just cuddled by Sacchi and others and made to think its ok to loose to the holding Champions they will surely loose the next leg. They've arrived at the end, there's no room now for errors, they need to understand that.
on the 16th February, 2017 at 1:07am

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