SSC Napoli will seek to rekindle their hopes for a top-four finish when they travel to title challengers Juventus on Friday
Defending champions SSC Napoli will be keen to get their flagging Scudetto title defence back on track when they take on second-placed Juventus at the Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
The visitors parted ways with Rudi Garcia after a poor start to the season but new manager Walter Mazzarri has his task cut out, having won just one of his opening three games. While the two losses have come against behemoths such as Real Madrid and Inter Milan, it does indicate how far the team has fallen off since their historic 2022-23 campaign.
The task will not get any easier with Juventus now on the horizon. Massimiliano Allegri’s side appear to have rediscovered their groove and are currently in the second spot, two points off leaders Inter Milan at the summit of Serie A.
The Bianconeri are yet to display their best but appear to have discovered the ability to remain pragmatic and force the results needed. While they are still seen as outsiders for this season’s title, a convincing win over Napoli will set tongues wagging.
More so, a win will see Juventus go top of the standings, shifting the pressure onto Inter who play later on Saturday against Udinese. The impact of momentum cannot be underestimated and as long as Allegri’s men keep securing wins, the more Inter will keep looking behind their shoulders.
The result on the night should have implications both in the race for the Scudetto and also a UEFA Champions League spot. It is still early in the season but the stakes could not be higher.
The Hard Tackle takes a look at how these two sides will line up and what tactics they might employ.
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— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) December 7, 2023
Allegri’s side might have scored the fewest goals of any team in the current Serie A top six but their second-best defence in the league sees them occupy the lofty heights of second spot, a mere two points off leaders Inter Milan.
The Nerazzurri made short work of Napoli last weekend and the gauntlet has now been laid for Juventus to repeat the trick. The home side will be without Timothy Weah and Mattia De Sciglio, both of whom are out injured for the game.
Danilo returned to action last weekend against Monza but the Brazilian is still far from completely fit to take his spot in the playing XI for granted. Juventus are likely to retain their 3-5 -2 formation with Wojciech Szczesny starting in goal.
Federico Gatti should take his spot in the back three alongside Gleison Bremer and Daniel Rugani. Andrea Cambiaso and Filip Kostic should function as the full-backs with the trio of Adrien Rabiot, Weston McKennie and Nicolussi Caviglia holding the fort in the middle of the park.
Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic should reprise their spots up front. The duo have been among Juventus’s best players this season and will be licking their lips at the thought of attaching a rather soft Napoli rearguard.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Szczesny; Gatti, Bremer, Rugani; Cambiaso, McKennie, Nicolussi Caviglia, Rabiot, Kostic; Chiesa, Vlahovic
The defending champions have lost since surrendered their aura of invincibility, with several Achilles heels now being laid bare. Mazzarri has his work cut out to get Napoli back into the title race but a top-four finish is still in the offing.
Having been thoroughly outplayed by Inter Milan last time around, Napoli will be seeking a response when they travel to Turin. The visitors have a poor record against Juventus but have lost just once of their last seven meetings against the Bianconeri.
Injuries will not make the veteran manager’s task simpler. Mathias Olivera is out with a knee injury while Mario Rui has a muscle issue and Alessandro Zanoli continues to suffer from a back injury. Skipper Giovanni Di Lorenzo also picked up a knock in training, making him a doubt to feature on the night.
✊ Keep on pushing
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Napoli have persevered with their 4-3-3 formation under both Luciano Spalletti and Rudi Garcia but injuries could see Mazzarri revert to his trademark 3-4-2 setup. Alex Meret should start in goal behind the trio of Amir Rrahmani, Leo Ostigard and Natan.
Matteo Politano and Piotr Zielinksi should drop out wide, with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Stanislav Lobotka holding the fort in central midfield. The front three of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Victor Osimhen and Giacomo Raspadori are automatic picks. They will hope to get back to their best.
Napoli’s best chance of getting a result is if their fearsome front three fires all cylinders.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Meret; Rrahmani, Ostigard, Natan; Politano, Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Raspadori, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia
- Juventus have defeated Napoli just once in their last seven league meetings. Cristiano Ronaldo was still a Bianconeri star when that happened in 2021.
- Scoring on the night will see Napoli score against Juventus for the eighth game in a row, a new record.
- Napoli have lost 70 Serie A games to Juventus in the competition’s history. Apart from Inter (Also 70), they have not lost more games to any other opposition in the competition.
- Juventus have secured 17 points at home in Serie A this season, more than any other side in the Italian top flight.
- Napoli have conceded 225 goals against Juventus in Serie A, more than any other top-flight opposition.
- Napoli have secured 10 fewer points from their away games in comparison to home games this season, the biggest such gap of any side in Serie A.
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The Nigerian striker returned to action against Atalanta, finding the back of the net in a 2-1 win. However, he fired a blank against Inter and saw Napoli struggle to break down Simone Inzaghi’s well-drilled defence.
Osimhen continues to attract attention from several of Europe’s top sides and will want to keep up appearances. The 24-year-old is Napoli’s chief goal scorer and will hope to link up with Kvaratskhelia to catch the slower Gatti off guard.
Juventus 2-1 SSC Napoli
Napoli will be desperate for a win but Juventus, basking with home advantage have momentum on their side and will hope to keep their good run going. The game is unlikely to be end to end but Allegri’s pragmatic approach should see Juventus get the better of the defending champions in a narrow win.