When Gonzalo Higuaín departed Napoli for Juventus last summer, many predicted tough times ahead for the Partenopei. The Argentinian’s shoes (responsible for 36 league goals in 2015/16 alone) would be difficult to fill.
Arkadiusz Milik, bought as his replacement, hit the ground running but when he suffered cruciate ligament damage on international duty in October the cupboard looked bare. Manolo Gabbiadini struggled to fill the void, hastening his departure to Southampton last month.
Step forward Dries Mertens. The Belgian ran the risk of being pigeonholed as a super-sub going into this season, a player who just couldn’t match his impact off the bench when he was handed a starting spot.
At 29, Mertens is in the form of his life. Last weekend’s hat-trick at Bologna took him to 14 goals in his last ten outings, outstripping any other player in Europe’s top ten leagues! There must be something in the water at Napoli: half of the top six in-form scorers have been on their books.
With Milik poised for a return, Real Madrid’s defence could be set for an onslaught in the round of 16.
Cavani accepts the PSG plaudits©AFP/Getty Images
Europe’s in-form strikers (last ten games)* 14 Dries Mertens (Napoli) 11 Edinson Cavani (Paris) 10 Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon) 9 Gonzalo Higuaín (Juventus) 9 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern) 9 Dele Alli (Tottenham)
8 Luis Suárez (Barcelona) 8 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 8 Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 8 Timo Werner (Leipzig) 8 Bas Dost (Sporting CP) 8 Kostas Mitroglou (Benfica) 8 Vágner Love (Alanyaspor) 8 Serdar Gürler (Gençlerbirligi) 8 Moussa Sow (Fenerbahçe) 8 Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar)
*Only club games considered for players in Europe’s top ten leagues according to the UEFA coefficients