With a mouthwatering clash at the top of the Serie A table scheduled for this weekend, the race for the Italian top flight title is wide open, as Juventus and Napoli prepare to face off against each other.
Both the teams have been in good form this season, and would be looking to get a win out of this game, in order to get a headway in the league. A win for Napoli would entail the Partenopei getting a massive five-point lead at the top of the table. Meanwhile, a win for Juventus would ensure that the Bianconeri get into the lead in Serie A for the first time this season.
Can Massimiliano Allegri avoid the distractions of Chelsea FC rumours?
There have been a lot of speculation about Allegri’s future at Juventus, with the 48-year-old being heavily linked with a move to Chelsea in the summer. However, this is one game where all those thoughts have to be set aside, as Juventus most certainly need to win against Napoli, to break into the Serie A top spot.
Even if they cannot get a win, the Bianconeri must ensure that Napoli does not run away with a victory at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. Allegri would be looking towards Paul Pogba and Paulo Dybala to give his side the edge in the match, while the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli have to be careful at the other end to stop Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain.
Maurizio Sarri playing down the importance of Juve clash
The 57-year-old has done brilliantly this season to take Napoli to the top of the Serie A, and actually sustain their position there. For them, it is just a matter of staying ahead of the rest of the pack right now, and possibly extending their lead at the top of the table.
A win would give them a five point advantage over their closest rivals and opponents in this match Juventus, but the Partenopei may even settle for a draw, as neither third placed Fiorentina, nor fourth placed Inter Milan are anywhere close to challenging for the title right now.
Sarri would obviously be looking to his star striker Gonzalo Higuain to give him the goals against a strong Juventus side that has shown the necessary resilience to climb back to the top four positions, after a poor start to the current season. It would be interesting to see Sarri’s approach in this match.
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Paulo Dybala vs. Raul Albiol
As Argentinian strikers take charge this season in the Serie A, Juventus have had an absolute revelation up front, in the form of Paulo Dybala so far. Dybala is currently the second highest scorer in the Serie A this season with 13 goals to his name. To add to that, the 22-year-old has also made eight assists, making a brilliant forward partnership with Mario Mandzukic.
On the other hand, Napoli have been the second best defensive side in the Serie A this season, conceding just 19 goals in 24 matches. At the heart of this defensive success has been centre-back Raul Albiol. The Spaniard has been instrumental at the head of the defence for Sarri’s men, and would be looking to keep Dybala in check in this match.
Paul Pogba vs. Marek Hamsik
This is set to be a really interesting battle between two great creators in the middle of the park. Both Pogba and Hamsik are the playmakers in chief for Juventus and Napoli respectively, and both teams would be looking to play their forwards through on goal.
Statistically, the players are almost on par with each other, as Pogba has five assists and five goals, while Hamsik has six assists and five goals to his name in Serie A this season. Apart from creating chances, both Pogba and Hamsik would also be trying to keep the other in check, so as to help their own side get the three points.
Leonardo Bonucci vs. Gonzalo Higuain
Yet another Argentinian striker has been running amock in Serie A this season, and he has been the destroyer in chief for most of the defences in the league so far. Higuain has scored a whopping 24 goals in as many Serie A appearances this season. Higuain has not been so active on the assists front (two), but he has more than made up for that with his goals.
Trying to stop this Argentine goal machine is Leonardo Bonucci, who will have to spearhead the Juventus defence in the absence of Georgio Chiellini due to a torn muscle. Bonucci would be tasked with stopping Higuain along with defensive partner Barzagli, and it should be an interesting battle in front of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.
Blast from the past
SSC Napoli 1-0 Juventus (1985)
We go all the way back to November 1985, when another great Argentinian was calling all the shots (and scoring from them) at the Neapolitan club. Back then, it was Diego Maradona, who was dribbling his way around all the pitches in Italy, and striking terror in the hearts of the defenders. In a tightly fought contest, an individual piece of brilliance by Diego Maradona ended up being the difference between Napoli and Juventus.
Maradona was seemingly brought down inside the box, by the Juve defenders, but Napoli were only awarded an indirect froo kick from a really tight angle. However, Maradona made short work of it, and scored a wonderful goal. Here’s a video of the delightful goal.