Last Saturday’s demolition of Bologna saw Napoli move into third in Serie A and are currently the leagues in form team. They have been unbeaten over the last ten matches, scoring 24 points over that time whereas leaders Juventus have the same points but have two defeats and have scored 13 goals fewer.
During the crushing of the side from Bologna, Napoli’s attacking midfielder Marek Hamsik scored his 107th, 8th and 9th goal for the club. This moves him to within just six goals of Diego Maradona’s club record of 115. The mohawked Slovakian has now scored 11 goals in 27 games for Napoli this season. If he can continue in this rich vein of form, he could help guide the club from Naples to their first league title since the second of Maradona’s in 1990. In his own words Hamsik said “Maradona is unique, there are no players like him, but I want to overtake his record. I could target it this year but if not I will target it in the future.” Having never scored more than 13 in each his seven seasons in Naples, he may not reach the target this season. However, with Napoli still fighting on three fronts, he will surely have enough game time to at least close the gap.
Club legend Maradona met with the current Napoli team in mid January and acknowledged that “soon he’ll beat my goal record” before adding “I’m glad though.” Maradona spent seven seasons in Naples scoring 115 goals. During that time he helped them lift two league titles, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup.
Napoli are the league’s top scorers at the moment with 55 goals in 23 games. Some of these games came over a difficult period when number one striker Arkadiusz Milik was injured. With Milik now nearing full fitness following his cruciate knee injury in October, Napoli could become the biggest threat to Juventus’ crown. Currently in third, nine points behind the Turin side, they need to keep the pressure on in Serie A.
Wednesday will see Napoli play away at the Bernabeu in the first leg of their round of 16 tie against Real Madrid. If they can put in a solid display and come back to the Stadio San Paolo three weeks later with a chance of progression, then they could enjoy the latter stages of the completion. Now could be the best opportunity to play the most successful Champions League side ever. At the turn of the year, Zinedine Zidane’s side had gone 40 games without tasting defeat, but have since lost twice and exited the Copa del Rey. With the attacking talents boasted by Real Madrid, Napoli will be hoping to avoid being on the end of a backlash which elimination all but confirmed.