No mistakes in Poland for Maurizio Sarri and his Napoli, with their Europa League opponents Legia Warsaw cast aside as they bulldoze their way toward the summit of Group D.
Goals from Dries Mertens and Gonzalo Higuain ensured the victory at the Polish Army Stadium, with keeper Dusan Kuciak peppered in a game that had 23 shots at host’s goal. Level on six points with FC Midtylland, there is every chance of finishing top of the group for Napoli.
The match gave Sarri the chance to hand goalkeeper Gabriel a chance between the sticks. On loan from AC Milan, the Brazilian was an unexpected addition in the summer; particularly as they have no option to purchase the player. Gabriel had a tremendous season with Carpi in Serie B, making 39 appearances and keeping 23 clean sheets. Although the Rossoneri have shown an acceptance of the keeper’s potential, they were willing enough to let Gabriel join a league rival; albeit on loan.
With Pepe Reina’s position in goal far from secure, Gabriel has put added pressure on the Spaniard with his clean sheet. Admittedly, the opposition provided little in the way of threat, with nine shots in total with only four on target. However, the clean sheet will weigh heavily on Sarri when making his decision in the future.
As expected, Pepe Reina was back in goal for the fixture against AC Milan. For Sarri, this was a great chance to measure their progress against a struggling Milan. The 4-0 scoreline was richly deserved for the Azzurri, who put on a stellar performance at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Although the Rossoneri had periods of concentrated possession, they fell well short of their opponents and never really looked like troubling Napoli. To some extent, the performance of the away side was so assured that perhaps Milan were simply contributing to their own defeat.
In this regard, this fixture could hardly be seen as a true test; not to discredit the performance of the Napoli players. The real test is up next as they welcome Fiorentina to the Stadio San Paolo. Not only are Fiorentina top of the league by some distance, but the match will take place following the international break.
It is imperative that Napoli continue with their wonderful momentum.
Lorenzo Insigne has been in spectacular form this season, scoring five goals and creating three in just seven Serie A appearances. Such statistics were hard for Antonio Conte to ignore, handing the 24-year-old his first call-up since the 2014 World Cup. A recent injury scare should encourage Conte to treat Insigne with care, with the Italian now vital to their title hopes.
Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens, Elseid Hysaj and Vlad Chiriches have Euro qualifiers to attend, while Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam face one another in a friendly between Algeria and Senegal. Omar El Kaddouri will be in action for Morocco against Ivory Coast and Nathaniel Chalobah has been called up for the England Under-21 side to face Kazakhstan.