In what could be the most fiery encounter in the Serie A this season, Napoli visit Turin to face champions Juventus and their former hero Gonzalo Higuain.
Juventus were handed a shock defeat last weekend by fallen giants AC Milan, but recovered in midweek to register a solid 4-1 win over Sampdoria in preparation for for this weekend’s showdown against Napoli. With the memorable win, Milan joined their crosstown rivals Inter as one of only two teams to have defeated Juve this season.
Meanwhile, things aren’t so peachy for last year’s runners up Napoli. The Partenopei are trailing Juve by four points and are still reeling from the loss of star striker Gonzalo Higuain. This traditional clash between the giants of north and south Italy was always steeped in animosity; the controversy surrounding Higuain has now brought it to a boiling point.
Juventus are overwhelming favourites to win at home. However, Maurizio Sarri will be looking to orchestrate another shock defeat for I Bianconeri as they chase an unprecedented sixth consecutive Scudetto.
Team News and Tactics
Juve will be without left-back Patrice Evra and striker Paulo Dybala. However, they have enough talent in their squad to be able to deal with the loss of the duo. The absence of the Frenchman means that Massimiliano Allegri is very likely to field his preferred 3-5-2 formation.
The defensive trio will hold a high line hoping to keep the action in the opposition half, especially with the assurance provided by Gianluigi Buffon in goal. The two wing-backs are crucial for Juve’s attacking play, while the strike duo of Higuain and Mario Mandzukic will look to get among the goals.
Probable lineup (3-5-2): Buffon; Benatia, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Khedira, Pjanic, Marchisio, Alex Sandro; Mandzukic, Higuain
Napoli seem to have found the perfect replacement for Higuain in Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik. However, the forward has been ruled out for the rest of the year with injury, and I Partenopei will have to look elsewhere for goals.
Maurizio Sarri has been playing a 4-3-3 formation in the absence of Milik, with Dries Mertens playing as a false 9. This could prove to be a useful tactic against Juventus, as the Belgian can then drop deep and contribute in midfield, an area where Juve are usually dominant.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
- Juventus have lost only one of their last 20 league home games against teams in the top half of the Serie A table.
- Juve have scored a minimum of two goals in each of their last nine games at home.
- Napoli haven’t beaten Juventus away since October 2009.
- Napoli have lost nine of their last 20 league away games against teams in the top half of the Serie A table.
- Juventus are yet to draw a game in the Serie A this season.
Player to watch out for
Higuain was hailed as the second coming of Partenopei legend Diego Maradona after his exploits last season. However, the 28-year-old striker became public enemy number one after he sensationally jointed the club’s bittter rivals Juventus this past summer.
This is the first time the Argentine comes up against his former team. Similar to how Jose Mourinho was the biggest narrative in the Chelsea vs Manchester United game this past week, Higuain will be the major sub-plot on Saturday.
Napoli visit Turin with vengeance on their minds as they look to exact revenge for the betrayal of the league’s top goalscorer last season.
Juventus 2 – 1 Napoli
Juve are one of the toughest opponents to face away, not just in Italy, but in all of Europe. It will take an exceptional display by Napoli for them to come away with anything from this game.
I Partenopei aren’t soaring as high as they were last season. Their record against the established giants of the Serie A is not particularly strong. The 4-2 win over Milan in the second week of the season has been the highlight of their campaign so far, but they fell to a 3-1 defeat to Roma a couple of weeks ago.
Juventus will probably take all three points from this game. Higuain will also have the opportunity to further soil his reputation among the Napoli fans by scoring in this game.
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