Stadio Olimpico, Turin
May 22, 2011, 18:45 GMT
Juventus host Napoli in Turin in what will in all likelihood be manager Gigi Del Neri’s last game in charge of the Bianconeri. It’s been a disappointing season yet again for the Turin based outfit with a Champions League spot out of their reach now and hopes of Europa League spot remaining ever so thin. Juve are coming off a lackluster performance for the umpteenth time this season against a Sebastian Giovinco inspired Parma outfit. The Gialloblu completed the double over Juventus this season with a 1-0 win at the Tardini. Giovinco was on the score-sheet for the third time against his parent club in this campaign.
Napoli have been one of the surprise packages of this season. Under Walter Mazzarri’s guidance, the Azzurri have booked their Champions League place for next season. The Partenopei secured CL qualification with a low scoring 1-1 draw against Inter at the San Paolo. The Naples based outfit have in truth exceeded all expectations this term to finish at a very impressive third place, having just been promoted to Serie A four season back.
The last meeting between these two sides was in early January which saw Napoli inflict a heavy and embarassing 3-0 defeat on Juventus. Edinson Cavani stole the headlines with an outstanding hat-trick. Juve sit in 7th place with 57 points, 3 points behind AS Roma, who occupy the last Europa League slot. Napoli will finish the season in 3rd place and currently have 69 points to their name.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Gigi Del Neri will find himself in the Juve dug out for possibly the last time come Sunday. The rumor-mill has gone into overdrive over the last few days with former Juve captain Antonio Conte apparently leading the race to replace the former Roma tactician. Del Neri will deploy his favored 4-4-2 formation. He will welcome back first choice left back Paolo De Ceglie. The Juve youth product has been out since late October and his return to the first team has taken longer than initially anticipated. He could be in line for his first start in seven months.
In the heart of the defence, the partership of Barzagli-Chiellini will continue. They have formed a decent enough pairing in the past few weeks and compliment each other well. Frederik Sorensen will return to his role at right back much to the delight of Juve fans, as Marco Motta is suspended and has probably played his last game for the club. Milos Krasic and Claudio Marchisio return from suspension. The latter has been rewarded with a contract extension, which should tie him down at the club until 2016. Felipe Melo will act as the holding midfielder in the middle of the park. He will sit just in front of the defence, tidying up and breaking play like he has done brilliantly all season long and will also set off counter attacks.
Alessandro Matri and Alessandro Del Piero will lead the attack for Juve. The pair have formed a lethal strike-force. Matri, on loan from Cagliari, has been banging in the goals consistently for his new side and should be purchased completely in the summer. He has 8 goals to his name in 15 games for the club.
Fabio Grosso, Marco Storari and Alberto Aquilani will face a race against time to make the squad. Sissoko, Quagliarella, Iaquinta and Grygera will miss the last game of the season through injuries.
Walter Mazzarri has steered Napoli to a very successful season in Serie A and has done a remarkable job. The team was in the running for the Scudetto but collapsed towards the climax of the season. A third place finish though has surpassed all expectations for the Partenopei. With the success of Napoli, Mazzari has been strongly linked with the managerial role at Juventus in the past few weeks, although Napoli will do well to hang on to him.
He will line-up his preferred and acclaimed 3-4-2-1 formation, which has worked wonders for him this season. The reliable Morgan De Sanctis will take his place between the sticks. Santacroce will play alongside Cribari and former Espanyol man Victor Ruiz. Santacroce was once touted to be the next Alessandro Nesta, but he has since been plagued with injuries which have curtailed his development. Zuniga, who scored a scrappy goal against Inter, is expected to get the nod over Maggio at right wing-back. Hasan Yebda and Walter Gargano will form the central midfield partnership. On the left will be former Liverpool man Andrea Dossena, who has had a fine season for Napoli. Midfielder Michele Pazienza is a strongly rumored Juve summer target, but he is not expected to start the game.
Top goal-scorer Edinson Cavani is suspended, while Marek Hamsik is expected to start from the bench. Ezequiel Lavezzi will spearhead the Partenopei attack in Cavani’s absence, while Jose Sosa will in all probability replace Hamsik. Napoli’s attacking trio are full of guile and creativity which will be a worry to the fragile Juve defence. Their wing-play will cause problems to Juve’s fullbacks and will look to hit the home side hard on the counter.
Probable line-up (3-4-2-1): De Sanctis; Santacroce, Cribari, Ruiz; Zuniga, Yebda, Gargano, Dossena; Sosa, Mascara; Lavezzi
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)
Il Principe is Juve through and through. After his new but deserved contract extension, all eyes will be on the Italian international. His versatility and high rate of consistency is an asset to any side and on the last day of the season he will look to deliver from midfield.
Juventus 1-1 Napoli
Both these teams aren’t in the best of forms, with just one win in their past five games. Napoli have been a bogey team for Juve and hold an impressive record against the Bianconeri. Both teams will have the desire to finish off the last game of the season on a high and could cancel each other out in an entertaining draw.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST