It seems like we just did this, but it's again time for Napoli and Juventus to face off. This time a trophy isn't on the line, but that doesn't make the scale of this match any smaller. Any time these two teams face off it's a major event in Italy, and this time is no different. A not-so-subtle shift in the narrative makes it even more interesting, with Juve seeming to be struggling a bit of late and Napoli on the rise again. There's a not-so-minor chance that come the end of the season, both fanbases could be pointing at this match as a major turning point in their seasons.
The Old Lady might need a walker
Juventus seem to be scuffling a bit for more than a month now, drawing their first two matches in December before winning a match against lowly Cagliari that was much less impressive than the 3-1 scoreline would suggest. Then came the penalty loss of the Supercoppa Italiana to Napoli, and their Jekyll-and-Hyde performance against Inter that wound up as a draw despite a dominating first half.
The three-time defending league winners will need to play much better if they're going to beat Napoli, but part of the problem has been what feels like a very unsettled lineup. Max Allegri is trying to drag Juventus to something closer to the tactics he employed at AC Milan, but so far it's looked like his current squad just isn't well-suited to that kind of setup. Allegri keeps mixing and matching different personnel sets trying to find the right combination, but a solution has proved elusive.
Juve are mostly healthy, with only Kwadwoh Asamoah, Andrea Barzagli, and Romulo held out of their squad. All three have been out for awhile, though, so that serves as little surprise. Otherwise, we should see whatever Max Allegri deems as his full-strength starting eleven for this week.
Keep the Azzurri train rollin'
Napoli seem to have a healthy dose of momentum going in their favor, winning three straight games in impressive fashion. They kicked the snot out of Parma and Cesena on either side of the winter break, and in the middle of it earned a hard-fought win against Juventus to take the Supercoppa title. This team is oozing confidence and positive energy right now, and there's a niggling feeling that they might be about to rip off an impressive run of form.
A second win against Juve would be a great way to get that form really, truly rolling, and with the Old Lady seeming to have lost a little bit of their normal surety, this would be a good time to get that second win. A win would also bring them to within seven points of Juve in the table, as well as potentially knocking the Bianconeri off the top of the table depending on how Roma fair against Lazio.
The loss of Faouzi Ghoulam, away in AFCON duty with Algeria, will be a major blow to Napoli's chances, but if Miguel Britos can play the same constrained, responsible game that he did against Cesena, they could be OK. They'll certainly be missing Ghoulam's quality in attack either way, but with Hamsik, Higuain, and Callejon all seeming to be rounding in to better form, they can find ways to make it work without him. The key, as always against a team with Juventus, will be to find a way to seize momentum early and just keep cramming the ball down their throat until something good happens, then win the ball back and do it all over again.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albio, Koulibaly, Britos; Lopez, Jorginho; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain
Juventus: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Chiellini, Bonucci, Caceres; Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba; Pereyra; Tevez, Morata
At a glance
Juventus: 1st; 12W, 4D, 1L; League Form: DWDDW
Napoli: 4th; 8 W 6D 3L; League Form: WWLDD
Last Time Out
Last Time Out
Last time we met...
It was not quite three weeks ago when these two teams last faced off, vying for the Supercoppa Italiana in Doha, Qatar. Napoli overcame an early goal for Juventus to force extra time, then equalized again with just minutes left in the match after Juve got a second goal. It took a very long penalty shootout to determine the winner, but Napoli emerged victorious, winning the Supercoppa and giving the team a newfound belief and confidence that still seems to be giving the club a healthy dose of enthusiasm to work from.
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