Stadio San Paolo, Naples
26th September 2015, 19:45 GMT
A massive clash at the San Paolo on Saturday night sees two of Italian football giants go head to head, as Napoli host champions Juventus with both in need of a win. Napoli would fancy taking on the Old Lady at this time of the season when the champions are struggling and are remotely in crisis. The Partenopeia s goal-laden run of form came to a screeching halt at Carpi in midweek. Since the arrival of manager Mauricio Sarri, Napoli have struggled to come to terms with his new tactics and have been inconsistent. Over the last three games however things have looked bright at both ends of the pitch with Pepe Reina recording three clean sheets on the spin.
The Old Ladya s midweek encounter with a newly promoted side hardly went to plan. A solid if unspectacular single-goal victory was turned on its head by self-confessed Juve fan Leonardo Blancharda s injury-time equaliser for Frosinone. Injuries to attackers Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic saw Simone Zaza pressed in to action alongside Paulo Dybala in midweek and the former Sassuolo man impressed, notching his first goal for the club and also hitting the bar.
Team news and tactics
The biggest changes to Napolia s line-up are in midfield, where new arrivals Allan and Mirko Valdifiori, bought from from Udinese and Empoli respectively, have replaced summer departures Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano. Meanwhile, the signing of Nathaniel Chalobah, who joins on loan from Chelsea, will provide competition for places in central areas, as the England Under 21 international looks to gain valuable experience of playing abroad.
There are a couple of noteworthy additions also in defence: Romanian international centre-back Vlad Chiriches from Tottenham bolsters the backline, while right-back Elseid Hysaj is another ex-Empoli player to be teaming up with Sarri at the San Paolo. Between the sticks, Pepe Reina has returned after spending last season with Bayern Munich. The Partenopei are virtually unchanged up front, where they continue to have at their disposal a plethora of talented and technically-gifted forwards in Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens, Jos Callejon, Manolo Gabbiadini and Lorenzo Insigne.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3):Reina(Gk); Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Higuain, Insigne
The injury crisis surrounding Max Allegria s squad shows no sign of improving, as Stephan Lichtsteiner is a major doubt having been withdrawn at half-time in midweek due to breathing difficulties. With long-term absentees Claudio Marchisio, Kwadwo Asamoah and Sami Khedira all still absent, Allegria s options are at a premium, which makes the emergence in midfield of Mario Lemina even more vital. A surprise inclusion against Genoa a fortnight ago, the on-loan Marseille man has impressed with his tenacity and understanding with Paul Pogba.
Having once again dropped points in a disappointing midweek draw with Frosinone, it is imperative the Bianconeri deliver a positive result in this important clash.Injuries to Morata and Mario Mandzukic made perplexing the manager’s decision to again leave a 32m signing Paulo Dybala out of the starting lineup. Allegri gradually introduced Morata last season but, without Carlos Tevez to take care of business while Dybala settles, Juventus’ current circumstances are different. Hernanes’ absence from the kickoff also raised eyebrows, particularly given he did so well in the regista role at Man City in the Champions League and then didn’t feature against Genoa.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3):Buffon(Gk); Padoin, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Sturaro, Hernanes, Pogba; Cuadrado, Morata, Dybala
- Napoli have won only one of their last nine Serie A games against Juventus (2-0 in March 2014).
- Juve got the better of Napoli in both meetings last season, with the same scoreline (3-1).
- The last eight meetings at the San Paolo though have seen the Old Lady winning only once, with five wins for the hosts.
Players to Watch Out For
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
The local-born attacking midfielder has seen his form reinvigorated under Maurizio Sarria s guidance, and has arguably been the cluba s best player thus far.Insigne has netted two goals while adding two assists in the opening five games of the season, causing opponents constant problems as he drifts around the pitch. Keeping an eye on him will be a major factor for the Bianconeri, at a time when their right-back spot is one where they are particularly suffering.
Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
The Argentine has been one of the few consistent performers in 2015/16 for Juventus, and injuries to the cluba s other strikers mean his performance against Napoli will be even more important.The player himself will hope to add to his impressive tally, having netted three goals in four appearances for his new club.
Napoli 3-1 Juventus
Saturday’s game is a delicate one for both Napoli and Juventus. Neither can afford to lose. Napoli are nine points adrift of leaders Inter and Juve are 10 behind. It’s still early and there’s a long way to go but making up that distance already looks like a challenge.
Blast From the Past
Juventus finally ended their winning drought at San Paolo in Napoli after a good, quick response to an equalizer halfway through the second half.