Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia are leading Napoli’s Champions League charge, the Italians’ crown jewels in wonderful form ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Eintracht Frankfurt.
A club in turmoil at the end of last season whose fans were in open revolt, Napoli have stunned their own supporters and the rest of Europe by becoming possibly the continent’s most exciting team and Italy’s champions-elect by mid-February.
Napoli have never made it past the last 16 in the Champions League but with none of Europe’s powerhouses at their peak a window has been left for Luciano Spalletti’s side to have a go at the continent’s top competition.
The optimism surrounding Napoli is due in large part to Serie A’s leading scorer Osimhen and summer signing Kvaratskhelia, a devastating partnership which is central to their chances at home and abroad.
Between them Nigeria striker Osimhen and ‘Kvaradona’ have scored half of Napoli’s 56 league goals, the Georgian wing wizard also setting up nine and providing the kind of individual brilliance which already has the world’s top club’s circling.
Osimhen is running at almost a goal a game in Italy’s top flight, nine in his eight matches since the turn of the year taking his league tally to 18.
The 24-year-old is looking to add to his one goal in this year’s Champions League, which came in a 4-2 win over Ajax a month after injuring himself in an eye-popping four-goal thumping of Liverpool.
And he is convinced that there is plenty more to come from Kvaratskhelia, who has 12 goals and the same number of assists in all competitions.
“He is just getting started, you guys have seen nothing yet,” he said.
“I believe he has the quality to make us dream this season, he has big confidence and we are here to help support him.”
– Dark horses –
Few pegged Napoli as favourites to top a group which contained last year’s finalists Liverpool, as the supporter protests accompanied their pre-season despite last year’s doomed title run.
What has happened since has stunned Italian football and made the rest of the continent sit and take notice: Serie A might not be the gallery of stars it once was but to be 15 points clear after just 23 matches is an incredible feat.
Napoli have dropped just seven points in Italy’s top flight all season, the team of Diego Maradona seemingly touched by the Hand of God and almost certain to win their first league title in over three decades.
However after Friday’s 2-0 win at Sassuolo — Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia were the scorers — Spalletti said that the current Eintracht outfit have more experience in European competition after winning the Europa League last season.
They offer the sort of test that Napoli rarely face and have Kolo Muani in great form in the Bundesliga after his costly miss for France in the World Cup final.
However spirits are so high in Naples that even owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has said that he is eyeing a deep run in this year’s competition.
And with Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia firing on all cylinders it would be no surprise if they made the last eight.