Juventus put out a B team lineup, but Napoli still couldn't come close to beating them, falling 3-1 and taking control of their Champions League destiny completely out of their own hands.
The first half was completely listless from Napoli. They struggled to get much of anything going, finding it difficult to chain passes together and running in to even tougher going in the final third, especially with Gonzalo Higuain not really providing much of anything up top, not moving much or creating space or doing much of anything useful.
Of course, the defense was even less useful.
It didn't take long for Juventus to exploit problems with Napoli's defense, mostly because it never takes them long to do things like that. A pass over the top from Kingsley Coman found Roberto Pereyra running completely unmarked and untracked behind the defense, and a strong shot later, Napoli were trailing 1-0 after just 13 minutes. It might have helped if Mariano Andujar had played the shot well, but -- well, you know how that sentence ends.
Napoli managed to stem the bleeding in defense, but still couldn't get anything going in attack. With Higuain looking like he didn't want to be there and Marek Hamsik on the bench, there just wasn't much of anything Napoli could do in attack. Then the halftime whistle came, and on the other side of it Higuain was hauled off in favor of Manolo Gabbiadini, who had been warming up towards the end of the first half.
That change brought a new spark in to Napoli's side, suddenly looking like they were actually dangerous in attack, forcing Juve to sit deeper and put more numbers in defense. That helped lead to Napoli earning a penalty early in the half, when Dries Mertens tried to fit a ball through a crowd of Madrid defenders in the box and found Kwadwo Asamoah's arm instead. Lorenzo Insigne's try at the penalty was saved by Gianluigi Buffon, but the shot was only parried away, and David Lopez screamed in to pounce on the rebound to give Napoli a much-needed equalizer.
That goal and the eventual introduction of Marek Hamsik breathed new life in to the match, with Napoli running rampant for several spells of the match. Buffon was frequently called in to action, including a 15 second spell that saw him make two impressive saves, first on a bolted volley headed for the top corner from Lopez, and the second a point-blank flick from Hamsik on the resulting corner that Buffon saved on pure instinct, since it looked like he may not have actually seen the shot.
Sadly, it was Napoli's defense that would break first. Juventus weren't getting many forays in to the final third, but they tended to look dangerous when they did, and so it was that once more Juventus gutted Napoli's defense. Stefano Sturaro took a driving touch towards goal in the penalty area, and the entire Napoli defense just ... stopped. The pause only lasted for a second before Christian Maggio recognized the danger and made a desperate lunge at Sturaro, but it was too little, too late, and the Juve midfielder had already uncorked a vicious shot that caught Andujar dead in his tracks.
There was still time for Napoli to score, but they just didn't seem to have "it." They'd periodically threaten, but any real chances to score dried up when they went down 2-1. Things went from bad to worse in the second half when Miguel Britos lost his damn mind and headbutted Alvaro Morata, earning himself a red card and gifting Juventus a penalty because, of course, Morata was in the penalty area. Simone Pepe -- remember him? most people forgot he existed -- banged it home with ease, and that was that.
The loss puts Napoli in a terrible situation. Even one singular point earned by Lazio on Monday in the capital derby against Roma will see the partenopei eliminated from Champions League contention. That leaves Napoli fans in the incredibly awkward position of hoping for a Roma win. That's ... not great. Better stock up on antacids, ladies and gents.
Juventus: Buffon; Padoin, Barzagli (Bonucci 46'), Ogbonna, Asamoah; Pogba, Marchisio (Pirlo 71'), Sturaro; Pereyra (Pepe 79'); Morata, Coman
Goals: Pereyra (13'), Sturaro (77'), (Pepe 90'+3)
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos (red 90'+2), Ghoulam; Lopez, Gargano (Jorginho 79'); Insigne (Hamsik 67'), Callejon, Mertens; Higuain (Gabbiadini 46')
Goals: Lopez (50')