There was an air of inevitability about Federico Bernardeschi firing Juventus ahead at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Friday night. Not that the ex-Fiorentina star would strike the crucial goal against his former employers, but that this would be the weekend the Bianonceri took control of the Serie A title race.
Twenty-four hours later and several kilometres south at the Stadio San Paolo, Napoli were facing Lazio and, despite a 14 point gap between the pair, were exactly the kind of opponent that would test their Scudetto credentials.
Only the Old Lady had hit more goals than Lazio in Serie A this term and within three minutes the slightest of touches from Stefan de Vrij secured their 59th of the campaign. For the briefest of moments a sense of nervousness filled the stadium.
That anxiety never transmitted itself to Maurizio Sarri’s men, though, who had clearly put their faith in the patient intricate play that has served them so well under the Italian tactician.
As half-time approached the Partenopei increased the pressure on the Biancocelesti, seemingly aware that timing can be everything in football, and that drawing level would be as important a psychological boost as it would demoralize the visitors.
The composure shown by Jose Callejon to caress Jorginho’s pass mid-air and slide past the Lazio goalkeeper has been lacking in seasons gone by, when they should have mounted more significant Scudetto challenges.
This season Napoli look determined to heed the lessons of previous failures. Recovering from a similar set back recently against Bologna and edging Atalanta the week before with an equally calm finish from Dries Mertens.
Running out for the second period in Naples, the Partenopei appeared assured of victory as much as the Romans seemed resigned to defeat. A look that only increased with Wallace’s own goal and the slice of luck that brought the host’s third.
It was by no means a lucky victory for Napoil, though, and with past seasons complacency seemingly eradicated, should sweep SPAL and Cagliari aside before two tough tests against Roma and Inter.
By the time the Giallorossi meeting comes around the one point advantage could be much greater, with Juventus facing Torino, Atalanta and Lazio themselves in their next three outings, while also attempting to manage Champions League progression against Tottenham Hotspur.
Although May is still some way off, the Partenopei might just have showed everyone in Italy, and themselves, that that they finally have the longevity to end the club’s 28-year wait for the Serie A crown.