There have been very few opportunities this season to view Napoli through any lens other than just marvelling at their immense quality. To be precise, there has been three opportunities.
That is the number of times that they have been beaten in Serie A this season and it has presented an opportunity to wonder; can they react to this defeat with a victory or will they slip into some poor form?
The first two times, the answer was quite clearly no with defeats being followed by comprehensive victories. Against Lecce on Matchday 29, Napoli probably came the closest they have all season to something resembling a dip in form.
Lacklustre Napoli still get the job done
The opening exchanges at the Stadio Via del Mare were fairly even and it was clear that Lecce were up for the fight against a Napoli side missing Victor Osimhen and starting with Giacomo Raspadori up top rather than Giovanni Simeone. He only made his return from a long injury for 14 minutes in the defeat against AC Milan last time out.
The lack of sharpness was showing but in that way that Napoli have done all season, they just find goals. They find them from all over the pitch, too. Hirving Lozano’s dart down the right and subsequent cross was met by the right-back, Giovanni Di Lorenzo. His excellent header quickly made it seem that Napoli would be winning calmly once again.
Even with Lecce’s reaction and the equaliser that came in the second half from Federico Di Francesco, Napoli still managed to grind out the result in that way which, as the cliche goes, champions do.
The winner was a pretty awful own goal which went down as being Wladimir Falcone’s but the main culprit was Antonino Gallo. It was a scrappy and fortuitous goal that killed all of Lecce’s momentum as they searched for a way to take the lead.
Napoli’s first loss of the season was against Inter and it was followed by a 2-0 win over Sampdoria and a 5-1 win over Juventus. The next defeat came against Lazio and they followed that up by beating Atalanta 2-0.
Having lost 4-0 to Milan, it perhaps makes sense that the win over Lecce was less impressive, but nonetheless, they showed again that a defeat cannot derail them, even without their star striker Victor Osimhen.
Lecce show what is keeping them in Serie A
Lecce were not viewed as being destined to go back down to Serie B at the first time of asking but there was nothing about their summer business that really made anyone sit up and wonder if they’d be a team to keep an eye in a positive way.
As things have turned out, whilst they are still towards the bottom of the table, their form for a spell after Christmas has probably done enough to mean that the existing bottom three are not going to reel them in. They are eight points clear of Hellas Verona in 18th having played a game more, but they would certainly like another couple of wins given they have now lost six in a row.
Despite that worrying stat, there are plenty of interesting and talented players in the squad with the likes of Samuel Umtiti, Federico Baschirotto, Morten Hjulmand and Assan Ceesay at time looking like they could play at a higher level.
The first three on that list were particularly impressive against Napoli even if the night ended in defeat.