In preparation for Wednesday's breathless match at San Paolo, Naples coach Maurizio Sarri joked that the best way to get the best out of Manchester City's fast start was to ask UEFA to start the match after 21 minutes. Unfortunately for Sarri, and perhaps for the rest of Europe, this side of the city simply continues.
The Blues are five points clear at the top of the Premier League and are now in the last 16 of the Champions League, with two games to spare. However, many observers have been waiting for some kind of fall in the form, for some kind of opportunity to scrutinize the side of Pep Guardiola, almost as if his superb form this season would have been some kind of lucky break.
A dip will come, they have no doubts about it, but they showed in Napoli that there is much more to them than a football & # 39; just & # 39; attractive. They have style and substance. Clearly, in the bear pit of the historic San Paolo they showed that they have serious balls.
Napoli fans are notoriously noisy and unwelcoming, and even with a capacity of less than 20,000, the famous old stadium was noisier than any stadium you would expect to find in Europe.
This was, simply, a first class performance. The contrast between this and the one that resulted in the elimination of the last 16 in Monaco last season is tough. Then, City went to a vibrant, youthful, ball game with the intention of doing what he did in Napoli, but he did not have the ability or the conviction to carry it out.
Now you have both.
With the evidence of the season so far, every player in the City looks at home in the system, and they firmly believe in what they are doing. Maybe Nicolas Otamendi sums up his remarkable improvement, however, in truth, each of his teammates is playing well.
Everyone will be full of confidence after this game. The 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in September will have done wonders on that front, but this victory in Napoli, given all the circumstances, is something completely different.
Guardiola was at his most challenging moment after that game in Monaco, telling all the skeptics that they wanted him to change his style that he would not do such a thing. The result is this; the best team in Europe at this time.