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29th Apr 2018

Napoli’s Serie A dream was all but ended tonight

It was now or never

Reuben Pinder

Don’t dream, it’s over

Neutrals all over the world had been rooting for Napoli to end Juventus’ domestic dominance this season. The title race in Italy has lasted all season, due to Napoli’s ability to keep on winning – in style, too – with a relatively thin squad.

Before this weekend’s fixtures, Napoli were one point behind Juve, and they were almost handed a lifeline when Inter took the lead against Juve at the San Siro. At that moment, the dream was alive and kicking. If Juve dropped points and Napoli capitalised by winning today, they would be in pole position to win their first scudetto since the Maradona days.

Of course, football is not that kind. Juventus came back to win 3-2, capitalising on their one man advantage after the early dismissal of Matías Vecino. To stay in the race, Napoli really had to win today away at Fiorentina, but they failed to do so, all but ending their dreams of lifting the trophy.

Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off early on, making their task of winning away at Stadio Artemio Franchi even more challenging. With no option but to attack, with a win absolutely paramount, they poured forward but couldn’t convert any chances and succumbed to a humbling 3-0 defeat.

It’s not mathematically impossible, but even if Juve drop points against Roma in two weeks time, their current four point cushion gives them enough breathing room at the top of the table.

An optimist would look ahead to next season as another chance to challenge for the title, but it’s likely that this Napoli side will have its key players poached in the summer. Dries Mertens has a €28m release clause, while Jorginho has been identified by Manchester City as their long term successor to Fernandinho.

It really was now or never. Calcio, bloody hell.