It was an action packed week with the introduction of the Champions League but before we get to that, Napoli continued their brilliant start to the season with a 2-0 victory over Atalanta last Saturday.
The undefeated streak at the San Paolo was extended thanks to goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon, who has been somewhat a revelation since joining from Real Madrid netting his third league goal in as many games.
Marek Hamsik breathed life into the team from the bench and his consistency in performance is mind boggling. Rested from the start in anticipation of the midweek clash with Dortmund, when introduced, the Slovakian turned heads and Napoli really kicked into gear.
It was a question that arose many a time when Edinson Cavani was still plying his trade in Naples, and is about the Partenopei’s dependency on one player, but how much do Benitez’s men owe Hamsik? At the moment, he is the beating heart of the side and has the potential to shape the team’s fortunes as he showed last weekend. It is crucial he stays fit and the intelligent management shown by Rafael Benitez is making sure he does just that.
Perhaps there was an ounce of luck in the first goal last Saturday, with the ball kindly falling in the way of the Argentine Higuain, but there was certainly nothing fortuitous about his emphatic finish.
The second was an excellently crafted goal that Callejon had the pleasure of sweeping home after some good work from Lorenzo Insigne and Blerim Dzemaili. The goal put the game to bed and was a result that continued Napoli’s stay at the top of the table which is a completely justified position given their current standard of play.
You need look no further than Pepe Reina’s reaction to a goal for his side to see the true personification of joy and current feel good factor in the Partenopei dressing room. On show throughout the season, especially in the Atalanta match, the Spaniard has locked down the number one spot and is showing real commitment to the cause despite his loanee status which is perhaps another benefit of the Spanish manager guiding this ship steadily forward.
This week marked the first time that Napoli would have to contend with three games in a week and stuffed between the Atalanta and Milan clashes was the juiciest filling. It was the opening round of Champions League action and Borussia Dortmund where the opposition who made the trip to Southern Italy. Dzemaili hit the nail on the head with quotes before the midweek clash with that really epitomised the feeling in the Napoli camp. The Swiss international stated that whilst Dortmund are a top side, “at the San Paolo we can beat anyone”.
Napoli not only made themselves proud but also carried the beacon for Italian football with a fantastic 2-1 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund side who were runners up in last year’s incarnation of Europe’s elite club competition. An 87th minute Juan Camilo Zúñiga own goal ensured a tense end to proceedings but earlier efforts from Higuain, further proving what a sensational summer signing he was, and Insigne, with a breath taking free kick, proving enough to get the Partenopei over the finish line.
Insigne has terrific composure for a young player and having the ability to convert such crucial set pieces on such stage is a characteristic that should be adored. Napoli have a few big game players and in the 22-year-old Napoli born striker, another has appeared to have bloomed.
Group F is perhaps the most competitive of this years competition and Napoli will have to be at their best to advance and there are many challenging games to come.
Incredible praise must be shown to Benitez for the exceptional signings of Higuain and Callejon. Both players have been truly excellent since their arrival and the Spaniard Benitez took good advantage of a summer of change at Real Madrid.
Next up for Napoli is their trip to Milan to draw swords with Max Allegri’s side. Certainly a tough match but given current form, Napoli are taking all the confidence in the world with them on their trip north in what should be a winnable game if the Partenopei are serious about the scudetto.
Here’s to another week and more success in Naples. Having the pleasure of writing about Napoli so far this season has placed me in a football nirvana. I have forgotten how to write negatively about a team and may that last as long as my list of superlatives.