If Napoli can carry this form into the Champions League, Real Madrid may be in for a real challenge. Less than two weeks before facing the European champion, Napoli extended its unbeaten streak to 17 matches in all competitions with a 7-1 rout at Bologna in Serie A on Saturday.
Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik each scored hat tricks and Lorenzo Insigne also found the target in a match that saw both sides reduced to 10 men before halftime and a Bologna penalty blocked.
Napoli has only one more match – at home against Genoa on Friday – before traveling to Madrid for the first leg of the Champions League’s knockout phase five days later.
The southern club hasn’t lost since a 2-1 defeat to Juventus on Oct. 29.
“We’re improving. It’s too bad over Palermo but we bounced back right away,” Hamsik said, referring to a 1-1 draw at home against relegation-threatened Palermo last weekend. “If we play like this we can play with anyone.”
With 109 goals in all competitions, Hamsik moved within six of Diego Maradona’s club record.
“I hope to beat it. But if it’s not this season, it will be the next one,” Hamsik said. “I’m happy to be getting close.”
It was the first time Napoli scored more than six goals on the road in the league.
Napoli leapfrogged Roma into second place, three points behind leader Juventus and one ahead of the Giallorossi.
Juventus hosts Inter Milan on Sunday and has another match in hand, while Roma welcomes Fiorentina on Tuesday.
At the Renato Dall’Ara stadium, Hamsik opened the scoring four minutes in, diving forward to head in a bouncing cross from Jose Callejon.
Two minutes later, Insigne finished off a counterattack that began with goalkeeper Pepe Reina, using expert control near midfield then shooting from the edge of the area.
Reina dived to his left to stop a penalty from Mattia Destro after Callejon was leniently shown a yellow for using his hand to interfere with a header.
Callejon’s grace period didn’t last long, though, as the referee then showed him a direct red for a hard foul on Adam Nagy.
In a wild first half, Bologna’s Adam Masina was then sent off for fouling Mertens in another debatable decision.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, Mertens curled a free kick into the top right corner.
Vasilis Torosidis pulled one back for Bologna in the 36th by heading in a rebound but Mertens quickly restored Napoli’s superiority, using his speed to finish after taking a pass from Piotr Zielinski.
After a brief respite at the start of the second half, the goals kept coming from Napoli.
Hamsik used one touch to finish after being set up by a no-look pass from Mertens in the 70th, then the Napoli captain scored again with a long, curling shot four minutes later.
Mertens finished things off in the 90th with an angled effort for his 16th of the season.