Napoli are one win away from progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League, having pulled off another emphatic victory on Tuesday night at Ajax.
When the balls were drawn for Group A in this season’s tournament, there was no clear favourite to finish top – though Liverpool, as finalists only months previous, had the most convincing case.
But Napoli have steered away as the most likely to qualify for the next stage with games to spare, after picking up their third win of three on Tuesday.
It came on a trip to Amsterdam, with Luciano Spalletti’s side winning 6-1 on a night that also saw Ajax captain Dusan Tadic receive a red card.
Things could have been much different had Ajax built on their ninth-minute opener, with Mohammed Kudus credited with the goal after Kenneth Taylor’s shot ricocheted in off his knee.
But a brilliant diving header from Giacomo Raspadori levelled soon after, with Napoli heading into the break with a 3-1 lead after further efforts from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Piotr Zielinski.
An awful attempt to play out from the back saw Ajax hand Raspadori another, minutes after the restart, before the outstanding Khvicha Kvaratskhelia made it 5-1 with a well-worked move.
Giovanni Simeone put the icing on the cake late on, with the home side having gone down to 10 men in between the fifth and sixth goals with Tadic picking up a second yellow card.
The victory – which comes after the 4-1 mauling of Liverpool in Naples – leaves Napoli able to book their place in the last 16 with three points over Ajax next week.
Ajax’s task may have been made more difficult with the loss of Tadic to a one-game suspension, though there is a growing sense among their support that it may be time to move on without the Serbian playmaker.
As for Liverpool, the result sees them consolidate their place in second, now three points above Ajax with three more games to play.
If the Reds are able to win at Rangers next week and Ajax lose away to Napoli, Jurgen Klopp‘s side would need only one point from their final two games to make the last 16.
There is still a chance, of course, that they finish top of the group – but Napoli’s goal difference (+11) certainly makes the task more difficult.