The game of the week from Serie A comes from Turin, where second-placed Juventus play fifth-placed Napoli on Friday night in a game live on TNT Sports in the UK.
Our Serie A expert Daniele Fisichella has filed his preview and has picked out two tips for you to consider heading into this encounter...
Walter Mazzarri’s baptism of fire continues as Napoli visit Juventus this Friday after having played Atalanta, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. The champions are currently outside the top four, because of goal difference, and have lost four Serie A games, as many as they did in the entire 2022/2023 campaign.
Last week Juventus tasted how it feels to be leaders for 48 hours after beating Monza 2-1 in stoppage time. Another win will see them regaining the leadership and going 12 points clear of the Partenopei and all but end the visitors’ hopes to retain the Scudetto.
Five clubs in Serie A have scored more goals than Massimiliano Allegri’s men, but they’re two points behind Inter, who host Udinese on Saturday, and still unbeaten at the Juventus Stadium during this campaign.
However last season Juve lost both games against Napoli, 5-1 at the Maradona and 1-0 in Turin. Considering the two starting XIs are basically the same as six months ago, this game will tell us how much each club has improved and measure their real ambitions going forward.
The big news for Juve is the return to full fitness of Brazilian international Danilo. He has not started a game since October 7th and featured for few minutes in Monza. He’s expected to replace Rugani as Manuel Locatelli, who’s fully recovered from his injury, will slot in midfield in place of 23-years-old Nicolussi-Caviglia who impressed against Inter and Monza.
American international Timothy Weah might be fit enough to make the bench; the only absentee will be De Sciglio who is expected back no earlier than late December.
In the Napoli camp Zielinkski, who was on the bench against Inter, will replace Elmas. With both left-backs (Mario Rui and Oliveira) injured, Natan is likely to continue to play in that position, although Juan Jesus and Zanoli are also in contention. Politano, Kvaratskhelia and Oshimen will play up front.
Despite Napoli’s excellent away record (they’re unbeaten so far this season, and have only lost one of their last 21 Serie A games on the road), the Bianconeri are favourite (6/4) to get the three points.
The draw (11/5) is considered the less likely result, considering the importance of the match and the fact that both sides have shared the points in only three out of their 14 league games.
A win for the away side pays 15/8, however of the six top teams they played against, in all competitions, (Real Madrid, Lazio, Fiorentina, AC Milan, Atalanta and Inter) Napoli this season have only beaten the Oroboci (2-1 away) in Mazzarri’s first game in charge.
Both Teams To Score: Yes @ 8/11
One win, two defeats. Four goals scored, eight conceded. The fixture list has not been kind with Mazzarri, whose second spell in charge of Napoli is proving to be very challenging.
The crude numbers might suggest nothing has improved in the passage from Rudi Garcia to the former Watford boss.
However, despite the adversities, Napoli seem to have turned the corner.
The current Serie A champions would have deserved at least a goal against Inter last Sunday, as Yann Sommer made a couple of excellent saves and Matteo Politano hit the bar when the score was still 0-0.
After the international break the Partenopei seemed to have rediscovered their confidence and style of play, Mazzarri has given them clear instructions and Napoli keeps the ball better and with more purpose.
Of course the defensive struggles remain: they’ve only kept four clean sheets in all competitions and suffer to defend in wide areas. When games get stretched, as we saw in the second halves against Real Madrid and Inter, the absence of a player such as Kim Min-jae is evident.
None of Napoli’s current defenders possess the South Korean’s ability of anticipating passes as well as his peace. A real problem for a team that likes to committ players forward, especially against Juventus who’ll happily leave the iniative to the visitors.
Half Time Draw @ 21/20
Despite all their troubles Napoli still look much more threatening going forward than Juventus: they’ve scored four more goals (26 vs 22) and are second in the away table.
On the other hand, Juventus’ strength has been the mentality. Despite not playing particularly well they continue to get results and are showing a never-say-die attitude that reminds onlookers of their golden days under Marcello Lippi.
Not playing in Europe it also gives them an advantage. The win against Monza was the second one they achieved in stoppage time after their 1-0 victory at home to Verona.
Juventus often looked fresher than their opponents towards the end of games: in fact, they’ve scored five times in the last 15 minutes of games and, at times, have defended deep without conceding many opportunities.
As Allegri got us used in recent times this could be an extremly tight match that will be decided by details or individual mistakes. A stalemate, with the score level for large spells, ultimatelly suits Juventus who better know how to manage the tight margins.
The top of the table clashes that involve the Bianconeri are normally low scoring affairs.
Four of their five games against top six sides have seen less than 2.5 goals scored, and three of them (against Atalanta, AC Milan and Inter) ended in a draw after 45 minutes.
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