The latest international break has passed and Serie A will return this weekend with possibly the biggest game of the season. It’s number one versus number two as Napoli travel to reigning champion Juventus. Level on points and only separated by 2 goals, this match is surely a must watch.
The week off gave manager Antonio Conte some much needed time to refocus his Juventus. They may be on a 46 game unbeaten streak in the league but their last run of games has been quite unimpressive. After the 4-1 trouncing of Roma, Juventus looked slow, unmotivated, and dull in their 1-1 draw against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk during Champions League play. The 2-1 win against Siena was a tough one as it took late heroics from Claudio Marchisio to secure all three points and keep Juventus at the top of the table.
Conte will most likely not change tactics from what he has use thus far this season, with a 3-5-2 formation. But don’t cut out the possibility that the 4-3-3 could be used with Simone Pepe returning to the lineup from injury. There is a small concern surrounding the Juventus captain, Gianluigi Buffon, as he was held out of gli Azzurri’s last match earlier this week, with a thigh strain. Whether he starts or not on Saturday will be decided on game day. The more concerning injury involves Claudio Marchisio, who picked up a serious knock in also playing for the national team in their the world cup qualifier.
“Il Principino” was forced to come out after aggravating his shoulder. It appeared at first not serious enough to keep him out for the approaching Serie A match but if it does, expect either Emanuele Giaccherini stepping in or Paolo De Ceglie starting with Kwadwo Asamoah playing in the Mid.
There will of course be questions about who is to start up top for Antonio Conte. Juve made it a priority to bring in a quality striker during the summer but settled for Nicklas Bendtner and thus far have fallen back on the strike force of Fabio Quagliarella, Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Matri, and Sebastian Giovinco. Although the Juventus manager has yet to find a preferred pairing, the team have had no problems scoring. With no player yet able score more than three goals on the team, as the group they have still combined for a tally of 17 goals so far this season, a total three higher than the next best team and weekend opponents Napoli.
Napoli are coming into Juventus stadium level on points with our host team. There existed many concerns over Walter Mazzarri’s side after a less active transfer window then some others. The club was also hit with the loss of striker Ezequiel Lavezzi to French side Paris Saint-Germaine however any concerns have been put to rest by now as Napoli are off to a blazing start behind the hot foot of Edinson Cavani.
So far the Uruguayan striker has been nothing short of remarkable. His league leading six goals is twice as much as Juventus’ top scorer. Alongside Cavani are the same quality players as last year. Goran Pandev and Marek Hamšík have already proven to be just as effective this season, while players like Gökhan Inler, Christian Maggio, Juan Zuniga and Morgan De Sanctis would bring quality to any side.
While other teams are trying to find chemistry, Napoli have no such problem and thus why they are joint league leaders.
Although Napoli did lose Lavezzi to super spenders PSG, they reinvested that money wisely in the youngster Lorenzo Insigne. Growing up in Napoli, the 21-year-old grew up idolizing Alessandro Del Piero and may have the chance to shine against his idols former team.
Insigne isn’t the only youngster turning heads for Napoli with Eduardo Vargas, the 22-year-old Chilean also a much talked about player coming into this season. Both players will most likely start on the bench but could be injected as potential game changers off the bench.
Napoli and Juventus have already met once this year, in the Supercoppa, which ended 4-2 in favor of Juventus after some controversial refereeing. Napoli are also responsible for the only loss in a competitive match during Conte’s regime, the 0-2 loss at the Coppa Italia final in May. Any time the top two teams square off is going to be a highly entertaining affair.
Juventus: Buffon; Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pirlo, Marchisio, Vidal, Asamoah, Vucinic, Matri
Napoli: De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Gamberini, Maggio; Hamsik, Zuniga, Behrami; Inler, Cavani, Pandev