Napoli’s preparations for the Champions League tie against Real Madrid could not be going any better. Last Saturday the Azzurri thrashed Bologna 7-1 in the Renatto Dall’Ara to extend their unbeaten streak to 17 matches and record their biggest away win in history.
Dries Mertens in a state of grace
It also reinforced the pre-eminence of Napoli’s strike force, who have scored more goals in Serie A this season (55) than both Juventus and Roma (44), despite losing Gonzalo Higuaín to the Old Lady in the summer and his replacement, Arkadiusz Milik, to a long-term injury. In their stead, Dries Mertens has adapted to a central attacking role and leads the capocannoniere race with 16 league goals.
"Real, did you watch Napoli?"
Ahead of the first leg at the Bernabéu on February 15, confidence is running high in Naples and further afield. The principle sports dailies in Italy, La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport, have both used the phrase “Real Napoli” while Rósea led with: “Galácticos! Real, did you watch Napoli?” Corriere also noted: “If you don’t love Napoli’s football, you don’t love football.”
The players are also in bullish mood. After the Bologna game, Pepe Reina said: “We are ready for the Bernabéu. Madrid will make us suffer but we’ll go there and stay true to our style: that’s the only way we’ll achieve great things.”
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri played a closer deck when asked about the game by reporters: “You’re wasting your time on me. I have to think about our next opponents, Genoa. If I say something about Real Madrid it will send a negative message to the team.”