Juventus will look to get an early upper hand on their closest rivals Napoli in the Serie A title race as the two face each other on Saturday.
Juventus have maximum points from their first six Serie A fixtures. But, for some reason, the lineup still looks far from one that has clicked, which can be taken either way by Massimiliano Allegri. Perhaps, facing Napoli could aid the team’s cause and bring in the much-needed cohesion, which has gone missing since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, not that it is the Portuguese’s fault.
Napoli, on the other hand, have had to deal with an array of changes. A few members of the personnel have been moved on and there is a new coach at the helm. Carlo Ancelotti has taken over from Maurizio Sarri and will be looking to usher in a new era, albeit one with trophies, the only thing missing from Sarri’s reign.
In their last match at the Allianz Stadium, Napoli emerged victorious, albeit with narrow 1-0 scoreline. Carlo Ancelotti will hope for a repeat. Let us now run the rule over the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Mattia De Sciglio, Sami Khedira and Douglas Costa are still on the treatment table, with Costa also serving his suspension for the spit incident. One player that is certain to start is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese will have to sit out the Champions League tie against Young Boys, thanks to a red card in their first match of the group stage against Valencia.
Massimiliano Allegri should revert to a four-man backline against Napoli after deploying a 3-5-1-1 lineup against Bologna during the midweek. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini should continue at the heart of the defence, with Joao Cancelo on the right. Alex Sandro was rested during the midweek and should find his way back into the starting eleven.
Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic are certain starters in midfield. The Sami Khedira role could go to Emre Can, with Rodrigo Bentancur starting during the midweek. Paulo Dybala has started two games in a row and could be rested in favour of Mario Mandzukic, who found himself on the bench against Bologna. Federico Bernardeschi should complete the attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cancelo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Pjanic, Can, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Mandzukic, Ronaldo
Vlad Chiriches and Amin Younes will miss the tie, with the two stars still on the mend. Raul Albiol should come into the starting eleven. The Spaniard is expected to take his place alongside Kalidou Koulibaly, with Nikola Maksimovic giving way.
Elseid Hysaj is also likely to return on the right side of the defence, replacing Kevin Malcuit, with David Ospina also making his way back to the starting eleven and assume his place in front of the Napoli goal.
Jose Callejon should come into the starting lineup to replace Amadou Diawara in what is likely to be the only change in midfield from the midweek, with Fabian Ruiz likely to shift to the centre of the park. Dries Mertens will have to be satisfied with a place on the bench again, with the duo of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik clearly the pairing of choice in the eyes of Carlo Ancelotti.
The Bianconeri defence might not be impregnable but it will be very tight, which means Ancelotti could instruct his midfielders and forwards to be a little loose in their shots and attempt to trouble Wojciech Szczesny from distance.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Ospina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Rui; Callejon, Allan, Ruiz, Zielinski; Insigne, Milik
1. Juventus have lost just once in their last five home games against Napoli in all competitions. The one loss came last season in a 1-0 defeat.
2. Juventus vs Napoli is always a fiery affair. At the Allianz Stadium, in the last six matches in all competitions, the two teams have collected a total of 31 cards (30 Yellow, 1 Red).
3. The Bianconeri have scored at least two goals in 10 of their last 11 home matches.
4. Napoli have failed to keep consecutive clean sheets in the league since March, 2018.
5. Allan tops the Serie A charts so far for most duels won (63).
Player to Watch
The central midfielder will be key to everything Napoli do against Juventus on Saturday. Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 setup allows Ruiz to showcase his vision and passing. But, what is underrated is his own ability to shoot from a distance, which could well become one of the highlights at the Allianz Stadium.
The 22-year-old was in heavy demand before Napoli secured his signature. He is yet to open his account, in goals and assists both, for Napoli. But, if Carlo Ancelotti and his men are to have any chances of defeating Juventus, Fabian Ruiz will have to break his duck, something we feel might just be the case on Saturday.
Juventus 2-2 Napoli
The first real test for Juventus in Serie A, Napoli should be a handful for Massimiliano Allegri’s men. The home side could be in for a reality check if they are not careful.
Carlo Ancelotti sets up his sides to attack on the counter, something Juventus have been susceptible to so far this season. Expect an open encounter, with Napoli likely to come away with a point at the very least. Wojciech Szczesny will have a fair bit on his plate on Saturday.