Juventus Stadium, Torino
October 20, 2012
Napoli is the only team which has managed to defeat Juventus in the Antonio Conte era. Their win against the Old Lady in the Coppa Italia final prevented Juventus from capturing a double last season. Mazzari’s side has troubled Juve in recent times but this particular fixture ended with a commanding win for Juventus the last time it was played. This match will also see the top two teams on the Serie A table clash against each other.
Team News And Tactical Brief
The Bianconeri looked very, very jaded when they took over Siena in last round of Serie A. Juventus did not look their usual dominant self in that match and were somewhat fortunate to come away with all three points. It was clear that the squad rotation done by Conte was not up to the mark as some of the key players looked extremely tired. The International “break” was next but a number of Italian players including Andrea Pirlo were heavily involved in Azzurri’s back to back victories and didn’t get much of rest. Another worry for Juventus will be the fitness of Gianluigi Buffon who missed Italy’s game against Denmark after pulling a muscle in his thigh. Claudio Marchisio also suffered a minor injury on international duty but has been declared fit for the Napoli game.
Napoli were one of the first opponents against whom Conte started tweaking his system to accommodate a back-3 therefore it is unlikely that Juventus will change the 3-5-2 formation against them. Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci are likely to start in defence. When Juventus faced Napoli in Super Coppa final, Chiellini was out with an injury and Bonucci in particular, had a torrid time on the pitch. The ex-Bari defender was responsible for the two goals Napoli scored in Beijing and will be looking to improve on that performance.
There is little doubt as to who will start in Juventus central midfield thanks to the presence of Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. Pirlo was back to his impeccable self during the international break, providing two assists as Italy romped past Denmark in the last match. Pirlo’s second assist was a delightfully floated aerial pass to Balotelli from almost near the half line. However, one worry for Juventus will be that the veteran barely got any rest during the international break. Arturo Vidal, who has scored in each of his last two games against Napoli, did have some rest as he was sent off during Chile’s first match. Kwadwo Asamoah is another player who is assured of a starting spot. “Kojo” sat on the bench as Paolo De Ceglie started against Siena in last round. However, the Juventus academy product had an ordinary game so Carrera had to introduce the Ghanaian. Asamoah had an immediate impact and played an important role as Juventus improved in second half. Stefan Lichtsteiner is the most likely candidate for the right-wing back position.
Mirko Vucinic’s game changing performance against Napoli in Super Coppa Italia is likely to earn him a starting spot in this match. Like Vidal, the Montenegrin has also scored against Napoli in past two matches and has a penchant for performing against big teams. Sebastian Giovinco failed to find the back of the net against Siena but otherwise had a good game. The diminutive striker is most likely to start with Vucinic in Juventus attack.
Possible Starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pirlo, Vidal, Marchisio, Asamoah; Vucinic, Giovinco
Napoli were always expected to be one of the most exciting teams of the current season but few could have predicted their upward surge despite selling Lavezzi. The Neapolitans have started Serie A on a high and have firmly established themselves as the “anti-Juve”. Walter Mazzari has tweaked his tactics slightly after the departure of the talismanic Argentine. Napoli no longer play the 3-4-3 formation, choosing a slightly modified 3-4-1-2 formation with Hamsik playing behind the two strikers. The Slovakian, who had been somewhat overshadowed by the other “tenors” in past two seasons has found some of his best form in this new position and has been a driving force behind Napoli’s race to the top.
Just like Juventus, Napoli are also likely to field a three man defence with club legend Paolo Cannavaro starting alongside Hugo Campagnaro and Gamberini. The ex-Fiorentina captain has lent extra solidity to Napoli defence which has been beaten just three times in seven matches. Together these three veterans form one of the most experienced defences in Serie A and they will be looking to contain a Juventus strike force which has often seemed insipid this season.
The battle in central midfield will be extremely crucial in this encounter as the duo of Valeron Behrami and Gorkhan Inler face off against Juve’s three man central midfield. Behrami, with his dominant displays in midfield, has so far proved to be one of the signings of the season. In terms of stats, the Swiss midfielder has been the most successful tackler in the league till now and will undoubtedly be given the job to keep a close watch on Andrea Pirlo. Christian Maggio and Juan Camilo Zuniga are most likely candidates to start as wing-backs. Colombian Zuniga was one of the Napoli players sent off during the controversial Super Coppa Italia match and will be looking for revenge in this fixture.
Napoli’s front three will consist of three players who have a record of scoring multiple times against Juventus. Goran Pandev has scored seven goals against Juventus while Edinson Cavani has been a thorn in Old Lady’s side since his time at Palermo. One of Cavani’s greatest performances in the Napoli shirt came two seasons back when he scored a hattrick against Juventus as Napoli ran out 3-0 winners. Juventus defence has looked wobbly at times this season, something that rarely happened in last season. Against Napoli none of the Juventus defenders especially Bonucci, can afford to make mistakes. The Partenopei are possibly the most lethal counter-attacking side in Europe and will punish a Juve defence which often plays high up the pitch, should there be a silly mistake.
Possible Starting XI: De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Gamberini; Maggio, Behrami, Inler, Zuniga; Hamsik, Cavani, Pandev
Players to watch out for
Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
The legendary midfielder has had a somewhat mixed start to the Serie A season. There have been a few games where he has failed to make the desired impact and has been successfully marked out by opponents. Pirlo was in his usual sublime self for Italy and Juventus will be hoping that he translates the same form against Napoli on Saturday.
Marek Hamsik (Napoli)
The Slovakian leads assists chart in Serie A currently with three assists and has also found the back of the net three times. With 15 key passes in seven matches, Hamsik has been the most crucial player for Napoli till now. His positioning and off the ball movement can cause problems to Juventus defence.
Juventus 1-0 Napoli
This will be a keenly fought battle and is not likely to transpire as Juventus’ 3-0 win over the same opponents at home last season. However, the advantage of playing in their own backyard will provide Juventus with a slight edge to come out victorious from this match.
Blast from the Past