THE TAKE

In celebration of Napoli and the only competitive title race left in Europe’s top five leagues

This week's 'The Take' thanks Maurizio Sarri for keeping at least one of the title races in Europe's top five leagues competitive

18 points, 13 points, 11 points, 9 points.

Those are the substantial cushions currently held by the leaders of four of Europe’s top five leagues.

Bayern Munich, Man City, PSG and Barcelona are all running away with their respective leagues, meaning the title races in Germany, England, France and Spain are all pretty much settled.

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Bayern have won 17 games this season, second placed Leverkusen have won nine…

Which is why we should all be cheering wholeheartedly for Napoli.

Maurizio Sarri’s men lead Serie A by a single point with Juventus ready to capitalise on any slip-up.

The Turin giants have won the league six seasons in a row and so most are rooting for Napoli in the only competitive title race in Europe’s premier leagues.

Diego Maradona inspired the Naples club to league titles 1986/87 and 1989/90 but they remain the only Scudettos in the club’s history.

In relative terms, they’re lovable underdogs.

Hulton Archive - Getty
It helps when you have the best player in the world

The current crop are far from a one-man team.

They have the pocket dynamo Dries Mertens, the electric Lorenzo Insigne, and the talismanic Marek Hamsik, but their success is due to their philosophy.

Pep Guardiola heaped praise on Napoli earlier this season, describing them as ‘one of the best teams’ he has pitted his wits against.

That’s because Sarri shares Guardiola’s belief in beautiful football’s all-conquering power.

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Watching Napoli is one of football’s great joys in 2018

Napoli play out from the back and are prepared to live and die by that sword.

They also mirror Man City’s use of possession, with the criminally underrated Jorginho dictating the tempo in midfield.

Add in a feverish fan base and a city hopelessly in love with football and you have a recipe for one of the most romantic title wins in recent memory — though nothing will beat Leicester’s miracle of course.

CIRO DE LUCA
Good luck, lads

Juventus are the pantomime villains, purely because of how dominant they’ve been since Milan won their 18th title in 2010/11.

Paulo Dybala (14) and Gonzalo Higuain (13) have 27 goals between them this season and their double act may have too much firepower for Napoli to resist.

But for the good of football, I hope Sarri’s troops prevail.

Nothing plagues a sport more than monotony and predictability.

PSG, Juventus and Bayern’s recent strangleholds have sapped the enjoyment out their respective leagues for neutrals.

However, just like Monaco did last season, Napoli have a chance to spoil the top dog’s party.

And if they do succeed, it will do wonders for the global perception of Serie A’s entertainment value.

CIRO DE LUCA
Mertens’ goal record since becoming a centre-forward is incredibly impressive

The gap between the Europe’s giants and the chasing packs is too great and it’s detrimental to the sport as a whole.

So I will continue to admire Man City, PSG, Bayern and Barcelona’s title charges from afar.

But for nail-biting drama, and the chance to deal a blow against monotony, it’s Serie A I will be watching closely.

Forza Napoli, do it for the sake of football.


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