Napoli have been Juventus’ closest challengers for the Scudetto in each of the last two seasons but this term they should concentrate on the Champions League. Carlo Ancelotti’s men are already six points off the pace in Serie A, with Juve in the lead after picking up 19 points from a possible 21, and this year Napoli face increased competition from Inter Milan on the domestic front.
However, in Europe the Partenopei have made a bright start and lead the way in a tough-looking Group E on four points, having beaten Liverpool and drawn with Genk.
Last season, the Italian outfit were incredibly unlucky not to qualify from the group stages. Napoli finished third on nine points behind group winners Paris Saint-Germain and eventual champions Liverpool. The Naples club ended up with the same points and goal difference as the Reds, but they had scored fewer goals and so were relegated to the Europa League.
Star defender Kalidou Koulibaly believes Napoli should challenge on multiple fronts and says the “objective remains to beat the best teams in Italy and win the Scudetto”, but the club may be best focusing on the Champions League.
Koulibaly concedes that Juve “remain the team to beat” and once again it is hard to see the Turin club failing to land the Serie A title. The eight-time defending champions have incredible strength in depth and that is something Napoli simply don’t possess.
In terms of a best XI, Ancelotti’s side would be a match for any rival in Europe, but a lack of options in the squad means they would need almost an injury-free season to compete with Juventus for the Scudetto.
We may still be in the early stages of the campaign although with a six-point gap to overhaul already, it looks as if Napoli’s chances of landing the Scudetto are slim at best, but the Champions League remains a realistic goal.
Napoli have already beaten the defending champions in Europe after they saw off Liverpool 2-0 in their opening group match. The Italians are the only team to have beaten Jurgen Klopp’s men this season and the victory was thoroughly deserved.
Gli Azzurri have some world-class talent within their squad in the shape of Koulibaly and his central defensive partner Kostas Manolas, former Real Madrid man Jose Callejon, and fellow forward Lorenzo Insigne, but if one or two of those players are absent they look a much more beatable side.
In Ancelotti, Napoli have a coach who has claimed three Champions League crowns with two different clubs and, after their sluggish start in Serie A, it may be time they started to put their eggs in the European basket.
Focusing on one competition is always a risk and Napoli won’t ease off domestically, but Ancelotti should take no risks with his key men while a European title remains on the table.