What’s Napoli’s secret and how they became Europe’s underdogs

What's Napoli's secret and how they became Europe's underdogs

As Napoli defeated Sassuolo 4-0 this past weekend, Victor Osimhen scored a lavish hat-trick, his first of his career, boosting the Partenopei’s title hopes and propelling him to the top of the Serie A goalscoring lists.

Away from the World Cup, Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting were both inspired as Bayern Munich thrashed Mainz 6-2. Choupo-Moting is currently in the greatest shape of his career as the tournament draws near. Both Thomas Partey and Mohamed Salah scored goals this weekend in the Premier League, but only one of the two will be satisfied with their performance.

But Osimhen was the real star of the weekend, continuing his strong start to the campaign with a one-man clinic against Sassuolo. Napoli now has 32 points after 12 games, five more than Atalanta in second place. This victory was their 13th straight victory across all competitions. The game’s standout player, Osimhen, scored the game’s first goal at the back post in the fourth minute.

After 25 minutes, the Nigerian forward increased the lead for the home team with a close-range first-time shot, showcasing his deft movement off the ball and improved box-to-box finishing instincts once more.

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Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who had assisted on both of Osimhen’s goals, added a third goal for Napoli in the first half to put the game out of reach before the Nigerian sealed the victory 13 minutes from time with a beautiful dinked finish.

Even though there is little debate about the forward’s talent these days, this feat has taken a while to accomplish. This was the first hat trick of his career. He joins George Weah, Patrick Mboma, Mohamed Salah, and Keita Balde as the sixth African player to score three goals in a single Serie A game, the first in five years.

He now shares the league-scoring lead with Marko Arnautovic after scoring seven league goals this season.

After returning from a month-long thigh injury in the middle of October, Osimhen has now contributed to six goals in his past four games. The player, like his colleagues, will be disappointed that club competition was suspended in preparation for the World Cup later this month.

This Napoli team plays with a relentlessness that has long gone surpassed the previous club record of 11 straight victories, which was set 35 years ago by Diego Maradona’s Scudetto-winning squad.

They have a player in Osimhen who might be able to help them win another championship, but Napoli should brace themselves for increased transfer rumors about the player’s future in January as Chelsea and Manchester United are still being connected. The next opponent for Osimhen’s Napoli is their nearest rival Atalanta, who this year has their own Nigerian hotshot in the form of Ademola Lookman.

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The livewire, who joined Atalanta from RasenBallsport Leipzig during the winter, is enjoying a fresh lease on life. He added the second goal as Atalanta trounced Empoli away in Sunday’s early kickoff. Could the forward, who has five goals in his first 12 matches in the Italian top division, be the one to end Napoli’s winning streak?

After moving from Genk to Cremonese, a third Nigerian, Cyriel Dessers, had started to find his form in Serie A, scoring two goals in back-to-back games after waiting until his ninth encounter to score for his new team.

He suffered a thigh injury early in Sunday’s scoreless draw with Udinese, so he now faces some time on the sidelines. The attacker, who was replaced in the 23rd minute and left in tears, must now wait in suspense to find out if he will be permitted to represent Nigeria in the upcoming international friendly.

Sofyan Amrabat of Morocco received a caution this week while playing for Fiorentina in their 2-1 away victory over Spezia in Italy. Unremarkable in and of itself, but the central midfielder has now received a caution in each of his previous seven league games, matching Joey Barton’s record for the top five European leagues set in the 2014–15 campaign while playing for Queens Park Rangers.

Mane and Choupo-Moting excelled in the Bundesliga as Bayern defeated Mainz by six goals to keep pressure on the improbable leaders Union Berlin.

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Senegal and Cameroon, respectively, will be expecting to benefit from the services of players at the height of their powers come to the World Cup in Qatar later this month. Their performances come in the context of strong recent runs of form for the duo.

In October, Mane entirely put his September problems behind him. He finished the month having contributed to eight goals across all competitions, including two assists and a goal of his own against Mainz.

With a fifth-minute assist for Serge Gnabry, the 30-year-old set the tone for Bayern, but Choupo-Moting, who was absolutely unstoppable leading the line ahead of the energetic three of Mane, Jamal Musiala, and Gnabry, may have overshadowed him.

The veteran from Cameroon not only hit the woodwork but also assisted Musiala in Bayern’s second goal before capping off the victory with the home team’s sixth goal four minutes from time.

Choupo-Moting, 33, was anticipated to play a supporting role for the Bavarians this season before departing at the conclusion of the season when his contract expired, but it appears that his recent form has sped up negotiations on a new contract.

The attacker scored three and four goals in each of his first two Bundesliga campaigns with Bayern, but he has since scored three goals in each of his past three games in the top division, in addition to two assists and three more goals in cup competitions since mid-October.

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Finally, let’s turn to the Premier League, where this past weekend’s goals included African powerhouses Partey and Salah. In their 5-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest, the Ghanaian midfielder scored Arsenal’s fourth goal from the edge of the box, lifting them back over Manchester City into first place.

The 29-year-goal, old’s his second of the season, equaled his Premier League total for the entire period of 21–22, and Mikel Arteta will be hoping against hope that the former Atletico Madrid player avoids suffering another injury setback during the World Cup, which has so far overshadowed his career in North London.

Arsenal’s victory moves them up to a first place with 31 points, while Liverpool is struggling in the middle of the pack and is currently 15 points behind the leaders after 12 games.

After being shocked by Forest last Sunday, they were again shocked by Leeds United this weekend, losing 2-1 at home despite Salah’s equalizer in the 14th minute following Rodrigo’s early goal.

Although Salah has contributed to seven goals in three home league games against Leeds, he was unable to score the second goal the Reds required to defeat their opponents. Salah obviously enjoys playing against Leeds at Anfield.

Author: Bobby Parker