Prior to the start of the 2018/19 Serie A season, many thought Napoli was headed for a drop off in quality despite bringing in Carlo Ancelotti in lieu of Maurizio Sarri. Talks of a finish no higher than third place(and often put of the Champions league places) were thrown around daily by pundits and rival fans. Fast forward to today and I think it’s safe to say that Ancelotti and his side have silenced their critics, along with exceeding the expectations of even the most pessimistic Partenopei fans.
However, recent events in European competition and in the Serie A have threatened to derail Napoli’s chances of having a successful season. With the emergence of many doubts regarding the Partenopei’s season, let’s take a look at what us tifosi can expect to see by the end of the season.
Okay, so nine points behind an undefeated, Cristiano Ronaldo-led Juventus doesn’t bode very well for Napoli’s chances of winning the Scudetto this season, but, that doesn’t necessarily mean the race is over. While it is Juventus who will most likely be first by the end of matchweek 38, where Napoli finishes after the next 19 matches is entirely up to them.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne still have one match of suspension for red cards accumulated during the Inter match, however, both have been appealed regarding the controversial circumstances under which both were distributed.
Subjected to racial abuse for the entire match, Koulibaly was sent off for sarcastically applauding referee Paolo Mazzoleni after receiving a yellow card for falling victim to Matteo Politano’s Oscar-worthy acting.
The pressure is on Juventus to maintain the unbeaten season they’ve had so far. The Bianconeri ended 2018 as Campioni d’Inverno, but we all know that doesn’t necessarily mean a Scudetto is waiting for you come May.
Right now it’s best that we just focus on building more separation between ourselves and Inter, and as long as we work on coming away from each game with three points, anything can happen.
Realistic finish: 2nd
The Scudetto may be a bit of a stretch, but the Coppa Italia is definitely a possibility. The tournament provides us with our best chance at winning something this season, and I think I speak for us all when I say that it’s about time for a title. Napoli hasn’t won a piece of silverware since 2014, with their triumph over Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana being the last time they lifted a trophy.
Napoli will kick off their run at the Coppa Italia against Sassuolo, and a win would see us go on to face the winner of Juventus-Bologna. Obviously playing Bologna over Juventus is preferred, but it’s looking likely that a run to the final will be anything but easy. In addition to Juve, our side of the tournament bracket includes Milan and Atalanta, two sides who have just as much of a desire to win the tournament as well. As long as Ancelotti takes the competition seriously, which there isn’t much doubt that he will, a Coppa Italia victory could be a great way to finish off the season and build confidence to challenge for the league title in the 2019/20 season.
Realistic finish: Champions
Napoli’s run in the UEFA Champions League came to an unfortunate end when their failure to score against Liverpool at Anfield dropped them out of the competition. Despite their loss against The Reds being their only one of the group stage, failing to score in Belgrade proved to be costly in the end as it played a major role in our fate in the competition. Relegation to the Europa League has been seen as a curse by many when in reality, it is actually a blessing in disguise.
The Europa League is a very winnable competition for us. In addition to the Coppa Italia, it provides us with our best chance at winning some much-needed silverware, and if we were to win, it would be against some of the toughest opponents that have competed in the tournament. Arsenal, Chelsea, and Inter highlight some of the star-studded sides that are competing in the Europa League. Fortunately for us, we were given a favorable draw (something we’re not used to as Napoli fans). Swiss side FC Zurich stand in our way of the Round of 16 and, with no offense to Zurich, it should be an easy win for Ancelotti and his men. Beyond this match, it will just get tougher, but we have a side that is more than capable of putting together a title-winning run. Winning the Europa League would undoubtedly make us forget about our UCL exit and aid in keeping key players at the club.
Our last venture in the Europa League saw us exit the competition early against RB Leipzig so that we could focus our efforts on winning the league. Ignoring other competitions to focus solely on one isn’t Ancelotti’s style, though, so expect to see Napoli’s all this time around.
Realistic finish: Champions
With everything that is going on it’s easy to drop our heads and expect the worst, but with the side we have, and the manager in charge of it, we need to be confident in the team’s ability to bounce back from moments like these. Right now it may seem as if this season is set to end in disappointing fashion, but Napoli has a realistic chance at bringing a trophy back home under the shadow of Vesuvio.
By Massimo Nuzzo