Manchester City and Napoli will lock horns in the Champions League on Tuesday having torn up the record books with their remarkable goalscoring feats over the opening weeks of the season.
Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli are top of Serie A with a 100 per cent record after eight matches, scoring 26 times in the process.
No side has enjoyed such a prolific opening to an Italian top-flight season since 1959-60, while you have to go back to Everton in the 1894-95 campaign for an English side who netted more than City’s 29 over an initial eight-game period.
Sarri described City as “by far the strongest team in Europe at the moment” at his pre-match news conference, while Pep Guardiola also lavished praise on a counterpart very much cut from the same coaching cloth.
But who is leading the charge for these two lethal attacks, who are the main creators and how are they taking opponents apart with such apparent ease? Ahead of a mouth-watering clash, we looked at some Opta data to find out.
Majestic Mertens leads the way
Napoli’s Belgium forward Dries Mertens is the top league goalscorer on either side with seven goals, building on his stunning haul of 28 in 35 matches last season when Sarri’s decision to deploy the 30-year-old in a central attacking role proved a masterstroke.
Mertens’ colleagues in a front three Guardiola hailed as “so dynamic”, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne, have four and three respectively, while there is a three-way tie at the top of City’s goalscoring charts.
Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling have each scored six times in the Premier League, while Germany winger Leroy Sane has weighed in with four.
Silva service edges maestro De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne’s imperious recent run of form led to Guardiola fielding questions on Monday that mentioned Mertens’ countryman in the same breath as Lionel Messi.
However, De Bruyne is not City’s most prolific provider, with long-serving playmaker David Silva supplying six assists to the ex-Wolfsburg star’s five.
Insigne underlines his all-round value to the Napoli attack with four assists, more than any of his team-mates. Faouzi Ghoulam is next on the Serie A side’s list with three – the same number as Aguero and Sane – while Mertens and Callejon have laid on two apiece.
Grinding the opposition down
The commonality of Guardiola and Sarri favouring a quick, short passing game, allayed to high pressing when out of possession, is illustrated by some parallels when City’s and Napoli’s goals are broken down.
Their relentless approach makes them an exhausting proposition for any opponent and both teams are most prolific after half-time. In top-flight games this season, Napoli and City each have 10 first-half goals against 16 and 19 after the break respectively.
The period between 76 and 90 minutes is comfortably the most fruitful for City, with nine goals, while Guardiola’s men are surprisingly yet to score inside the opening 15 minutes of a Premier League match in 2017-18.
Napoli should try to exploit their status as the faster starters on Tuesday, having netted four times between 0-15 minutes in Serie A.
Penalty box predators
Passing through teams to craft clear openings is another thing both teams do in expert fashion.
It is therefore no surprise to see shots from inside the penalty area accounting for the vast majority of goals.
Fernandinho and De Bruyne might have caught the eye with long-range strikes in recent weeks, but 25 of City’s 29 goals have come from within 18 yards.
Napoli have scored three from outside the box and two headers to City’s four, while their tally is bolstered by four penalties to City’s one.
“Hopefully the spectators in the Etihad and the people who decide to watch us on TV can enjoy it,” Guardiola said at his pre-match news conference.
Irrespective of the result, he is unlikely to be disappointed in this regard due to the healthy numbers he and former banker Sarri have managed to rack up.