Napoli made it three wins from as many games in Serie A since the restart, as they secured a 3-1 win over SPAL at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday.
An early Dries Mertens goal set them on their way and despite Andrea Petagna levelling, strikes from Jose Callejon and Amin Younes ensured victory for the Partenopei.
The victory sees Napoli continue their resurgence under coach Gennaro Gattuso, after a slow start under predecessor Carlo Ancelotti left them playing catch up in the race for European qualification.
Roma within touching distance
After Gattuso’s first match in the Napoli hotseat in December, a 2-1 defeat to Parma, his side languished 11 points behind fifth-placed Roma and were struggling to remain in the top half.
The former AC Milan midfielder has turned the faltering Azzurri around in his half season on the bench however, and in addition to lifting the Coppa Italia earlier this month, has brought Napoli to within three points of their rivals from the capital. Sunday’s victory was a fifth in succession, whilst Gattuso’s side have only failed to win one of their past nine.
With Europa League qualification already secured courtesy of their cup triumph, Napoli can play without pressure and are breathing down the Giallorossi’s necks. Whilst Champions League qualification looks to have slipped out of reach, a dominant end to the current campaign sets Napoli up well for a push next season.
Fluid attack the key for Napoli
Napoli boast one of the most productive and well-oiled attacks in Serie A, with the likes of Callejon, Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne able to drift across the final third in tandem. Meanwhile, substitute Arkadiusz Milik provided a physical presence, and SPAL goalscorer Petagna passed his audition against his parent club.
Mertens’ 91st Serie A goal set the tone of the game, with a deft lob putting the Azzurri into an early lead, whilst Callejon’s clever running stretched SPAL to breaking point.
Indeed, the Spaniard, out of contract next month, was involved throughout and alongside compatriot Fabian Ruiz, showed good awareness to beat the visitor’s defence with lofted angled deliveries across the box. Napoli were at their most potent when the ball was switched from one side to the other, and SPAL had little answer.