It’s time. Napoli and Juventus are squaring off, and the timing couldn’t be much worse. Despite coming off two straight wins in Serie A, the timing of this match couldn’t be much worse for Napoli, with injuries and poor form throwing them into a tailspin of late. Despite that, the partenopei must find some way, any way, to win.
To that end, we reached out to our colleagues at fellow SB Nation blog Black & White & Read All Over and Danny Penza to see about getting some questions answered about this match. BOth to see what the feeling is about Juventus themselves and for the perspective to see what they think of Napoli right now, such conversations can be very illuminating to see just where things stand.
The Siren’s Song: What's been the key to Gonzalo Higuain finding success in a Juventus squad that operates so differently at a tactical level from Napoli?
Black & White & Read All Over: Part of it has to do with his developing rapport with Paulo Dybala. Part of it has to do with him actually getting service from the wings from the likes of Dani Alves and Alex Sandro. Some of it just has to do with the fact that he's been able to take advantage of opportunities that were right in front of him.
The thing for Higuain that is different now compared to earlier in the season is that Dybala is out injured until after the international break, which means he'll likely be paired with Mario Mandzukic against Napoli. It's pretty easy to notice that Mandzukic won't come close to replicating Dybala's creativity up front. The 3-5-2, which Max Allegri is probably rolling with on Saturday night, is much more suited to a No. 9 and No. 10 combination like Higuain and Dybala, but the Higuain-Mandzukic combo had moments against Sampdoria on Wednesday. Now we'll just have to see if it can make things happen against a good team.
And hey, maybe Giorgio Chiellini is right that Higuain is saving his goals for Napoli's trip to Turin. Although I'm sure you won't like that to happen, Conor.
TSS: Gianluigi Buffon has had some pretty big swings in form so far this season, with a few fantastic games mixed in with others that seem to show his age. Which Gigi will we see in this match?
BWRAO: Considering he had rest midweek as Neto stepped in goal against Sampdoria, I don't see why Buffon won't be the usual Buffon we've seen for so many years Before. Let's face it -- he has a mistake or two a season and then is his fantastic self the rest of the time. The key, as was the case during his superhuman showing against Lyon, was the ability to dispatch of the mistake he made the game before.
People will say that the errors are because he's 38 and losing the greatness that he's always had. But, like I said, the Lyon game showed many folks that he's still easily capable of carrying Juve to a win on a night where other aspects of the team are struggling. As much as two games may cause people to have a knee-jerk reaction to how he's playing, I'll take the side of the goalkeeper who is arguably the best at his position ever instead of the one who has had a couple of bad games in recent weeks.
TSS: With a massively-revamped Napoli side that found success before injury woes slowed them down recently, what's the biggest thing you fear about facing them in this match?
BWRAO: It's the same kind of fears that I have before most big Juventus matches. One, they create chances but can't be clinical in front of goal to take complete advantage of them. And, as a result, they either can't get a lead or can't extend one and subsequently let the opposition hang around for longer than they probably should. The second is that Juve's defense plays great for 88 minutes and then has a couple of moments where they just absolute forget what the hell they're doing. Like against Samp on Wednesday, they're cruising and up 2-0, let's the opponent cut the deficit in half and then have to try and ramp things back up so that the game doesn't get tied. Juventus are just gonna Juventus sometimes, and that means making things harder on themselves than they probably should be.
Thanks as always to Danny for answering our questions
Predicted lineups sure to be wrong
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
Juventus: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Lemina, Marchisio, Pjanic, Sandro; Higuain, Mandzukic
When: Saturday, 8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
TV: Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport 2 (U.K.), RAI International
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S.), Sky Go Italia (Italy), BT Sport Live Streaming (U.K.)
You can find additional viewing options on LiveSoccerTV, and as always, we’ll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter, and we’ll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page.