Stadio San Paolo, Naples
November 29th 2011, 19:45 GMT Kick-off
Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli host Antonio Conte’s Juventus at the intimidating and sold out San Paolo stadium in Naples in a rescheduled Serie A game. The match which was originally scheduled on the 6th of November was called off due to floods in Naples. Coming into this match, Juventus oversaw Lazio at the Olimpic Stadium in Rome. The Turin based outfit sit pretty at the summit of the Serie A table with 25 points. On the other hand, Napoli earned a point against Atalanta as Edinson Cavani’s late goal saved the Partenopei’s blushes. They occupy 8th position in the league standings.
The last meeting between these two sides was at the Olimpic Stadium in Turin. The game in fact turned out to be Gigi Del Neri’s final game in charge of Juventus in Serie A. It ended in a highly entertaining 2-2 draw which meant that there was no European spot left for the Bianconeri. It was also the culmination of another disappointing season for Juventus in Serie A.
Team News and Tactical Brief
It’s been a topsy-turvy start to Walter Mazzarri’s side this Serie A campaign. They’ve lost games this season against sides that they would’ve been expected to grab all three points. Three losses so far that include Parma, Catania and Chievo while they’ve been held for below-par draws against Fiorentina and Cagliari. However, Napoli did manage to breach the Udinese defense with two goals against the Bianconeri in what was an admirable showing. The Partenopei are well renowned for their swift counter-attacks. Juve need to be careful and may think twice about committing too many men forward which may leave them exposed.
Mazzarri will lean towards his tried and tested 3-4-2-1 formation against Juventus. His standout player so far has been Christian Maggio. The former Sampdoria wing-back brings flair, pace and a lot of energy to the right flank. He could cause a few headaches to Chiellini who has looked nervy at times this season at the problematic left-back area. Federico Fernandez bagged a brace against Bayern Munich during their midweek clash and could start again on Sunday night in the three man defense alongside Paolo Cannavaro and Hugo Campagnaro who was simply awful against Bayern Munich.
Patrolling the central midfield area will be Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano. Inler was reportedly close to joining Juventus in the summer but eventually ended up at the Partenopei. The Swiss International has shown his quality this season and will have a tough ask against Juve’s midfield trio. Recent reports emanating from Italy suggest the Inler might not make it for the game. He has been included in the squad but due to a recurring back problem, former Udinese man may have to sit out from a second consecutive Serie A game.
Attack will be headed by Edy Cavani who will be supported by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik. Cavani has once again been Napoli’s main goal getter and has five goals to his name this season. While Marek Hamsik has been inconsistent this season and is known to go missing during games, he certainly has the quality to pop up and produce something out of nothing. Argentine attacker Lavezzi won’t have it easy against Stephan Lichtsteiner but his blistering pace and trickery could worry the Juve backline. Lavezzi was set to miss out on this game through suspension after picking up a yellow card against Atalanta, but since the referee failed to register the booking, he will remain available.
Mazzarri has Miguel Britos and Marco Donadel on the treatment table.
Possible Starting Lineup (3-4-2-1): De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Aronica; Maggio, Inler, Gargano, Zuniga; Hamsik, Lavezzi; Cavani
Manager Antonio Conte’s men have looked a totally different outfit from the side we’ve seen in the past two seasons. The grit, the fight and the determination which was lacking has been seen in abundance this season. This side’s fitness and stamina has increased considerably. Take for instance the game against Inter, Juve performed like a team and not merely a group of individuals.
Conte deployed a number of formations like the 4-2-4, 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 this season, all of which have worked pretty well for them, underlining the team’s tactical flexibility; another positive Conte has brought to this Juventus side. He is expected to field his 4-3-3 formation against Napoli. The defense has looked solid this season but has conceded despite being imposing. Stevan Jovetic’s and Maicon’s goals were the ones that came out of nowhere. Andrea Barzagli has been arguably the best defender in the league thus far; he will be partnered by the improving Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of the defense. While Forrest Gump – Stephan Lichtsteiner will man the right back slot and Giorgio Chiellini should occupy the left back. The former has been one of the best signings of the summer while the latter has looked shaky defensively but has done well in the past couple of games.
In midfield, will be runners, Michele Paziena and Arturo Vidal who will offer protection, time and space for regista Andrea Pirlo to weave his magic from the center of the park. This will be Pazienza’s first start for Juve and will come against his former club. Claudio Marchisio has been suspended for this crucial encounter after he picked up a yellow against Lazio. Arturo Vidal has showed exactly why he was so highly rated at Leverkusen and has been a workhorse in midfield constantly hunting down opponents and put in an excellent performance during the weekend.
In attack, will be Alessandro Matri spearheading the pack and he will be flanked by Mirko Vucinic and Simone Pepe. Vucinic has looked much more at home on the left of a three man attack than as a central striker. In Matri, Juve have one of the most complete forwards in the league and has been involved in most of Juve’s goals this season. The front three combined magnificently for Juve’s winner against Lazio. Simone Pepe registered his second goal in as many games and has shown considerable improvement under Conte.
Juve do not have any players nursing injuries for this game.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Pazienza, Pirlo, Vidal; Pepe, Matri, Vucinic
- Juventus are the only unbeaten team in Serie A.
- Juventus haven’t beaten Napoli at the San Paolo since September 2000.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Vucinic has blown hot and cold this season. He has well and truly lived up to his reputation of ‘Big game Mirko’. Against Inter he scored for Juventus and was unlucky not to against Milan. Napoli represent another big name in Serie A and one would fancy ‘Big game Mirko’ to turn up once again.
Napoli 1–2 Juventus
This could turn out to be one of the most difficult tests for Antonio Conte’s side and the San Paolo arena is right up there amongst the most daunting arenas in Europe. Juve start off as favourites and could nick this game which will be a close encounter. Expect a pulsating game and Juve to extend their lead at the top of the table.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST