Allianz Arena sets the stage for a blockbuster Serie A showdown between title-bidding Juventus and defending champions Napoli. Friday’s top-four six-pointer in Turin could shape the home side’s Scudetto quest but also prove a turning point for the out-of-sorts title holders.
Federico Gatti turned on a ‘hero mode’ to inspire Juventus to a last-gasp 2-1 win at Monza last Friday. The center-back’s 94th-minute heroics kept Massimiliano Allegri’s team within striking distance of the table’s summit. Only two points adrift of pacesetters Inter, the record-time Italian champions can temporarily take control at the top with a win here.
Since almost every side broke its teeth at their home fortress this season, Juventus fans have every reason to look forward to this encounter. Before an evenly-contested 1-1 Derby d’Italia draw against Inter, Bianconeri had won five consecutive home league outings by a combined score of 9-2. It gives them a legitimate reason to hope for the best.
Napoli’s state of mind is quite the opposite following a dreadful 3-0 home defeat to Inter last weekend. Walter Mazzarri’s return to the helm has failed to produce the desired effect. After marking his touchline debut with a gutsy 2-1 win at Atalanta, the veteran manager has overseen back-to-back defeats.
Despite taking an early lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, Napoli slipped to a 4-2 loss to Real Madrid, throwing their hopes of securing Champions League knockout qualification into doubt. Fans expected to see the team’s reaction against Inter last weekend, only for Simone Inzaghi’s high-flyers to pick apart their home stronghold brick by brick.
Defensively sound, Juventus have only conceded nine times in the opening 14 Serie A rounds. But after failing to keep a clean sheet in their last two league matches, Bianconeri can’t take anything for granted. With that said, Allegri’s men have only capitulated four times in their six top-flight games on home turf.
That steady backline has played a pivotal role in an unbeaten league record in Turin (W5, D2). However, Napoli’s upcoming visit will test their defensive resolve, especially considering Juventus have gone winless in their last two Serie A meetings at home (D1, L1). That puts them on the brink of an unwanted feat.
You’d need to go back to 1995-1998 for the last time Juventus failed to win three consecutive home league clashes against Napoli.
Inter’s win at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona caused plenty of controversy, with Napoli CEO Mauro Meluso lodging a formal complaint about the quality of refereeing in Serie A. It’s more like a desperate attempt to mask the team’s significant problems on the pitch. Consistency remains an issue.
The visitors’ last eight league fixtures have fluctuated between different outcomes (W4, D1, L3). If it’s any consolation, Napoli have excelled on the road. As one of only two Serie A sides yet to lose away from home this season, Partenopei have racked up a league-high 17 points from their first seven top-flight travels (W5, D2).
In addition to Nicolo Fagioli and Paul Pogba, who remain suspended for breaching betting rules and failing a drug test, Juventus will be without Mattia De Sciglio and Timothy Weah. But Alex Sandro and Danilo are back in the fold, though both should start on the bench.
As for Napoli, Mathias Olivera and Mario Rui are on the sidelines injured, leaving Juan Jesus as the only remaining left-back option. Mazzarri is more concerned about Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s fitness status, with the Partenopei captain dealing with a muscle problem.
Juventus vs Napoli Potential Lineups
Juventus (3-5-2): Wojciech Szczesny; Federico Gatti, Gleison Bremer, Daniele Rugani; Andrea Cambiaso, Weston McKennie, Nicolussi Caviglia, Adrien Rabiot, Filip Kostic; Federico Chiesa, Dusan Vlahovic.
Napoli (3-4-3): Alex Meret; Amir Rrahmani, Leo Ostigard, Natan; Matteo Politano, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski; Giacomo Raspadori, Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Juventus vs Napoli Prediction
Given the high stakes, this contest has all the makings of a tepid, low-scoring affair. Against this backdrop, three of the last five league encounters between Juventus and Napoli have seen over 2.5 goals and both teams scoring, highlighting the potential for an action-packed duel.
But we’re more inclined to believe in a share of the spoils, though we can’t exclude the possibility of both teams troubling the scoreboard.
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