Juventus will be looking to extend their winning run to six games in all competitions when they travel to Stadio San Paolo to face Napoli on Sunday.
Juventus have managed to make a slight turnaround after a sloppy run of form. The Italian champions have won all of their last five league matches, a run which has helped them overtake Inter Milan and establish a four-point gap at the top of the table.
However, they are well aware of the fact that Inter Milan could easily catch up and therefore, will be keen on securing all three points from every game. But on Sunday, they will be dealt with a tricky test against Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo.
Napoli have been one of the most underperforming teams in Serie A this season. Having collected only 24 points from 20 matches, the Partenopei are dawdling at the wrong end of the table. They have appeared quite sloppy at the back and have given away a lot of points from winning positions.
That being said, the Naples outfit will be determined to topple former manager Maurizio Sarri led Juventus, allowing Inter Milan to close in at the top. They will be hoping to draw confidence from their narrow win over Lazio in the quarter-final of the Coppa Italia in midweek, though things could be considerably difficult this time out.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial Serie A encounter on Sunday.
Tactics & Team News
Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso is not expected to make many alterations to the side that secured a sensational win over Lazio in the last game.
The ex-AC Milan coach is still missing key players in defence including Kalidou Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, Faouzi Ghoulam and Kevin Malcuit, meaning both Kostas Manolas and Giovanni Di Lorenzo are expected to retain their place at the heart of the four-man backline.
Ghoulam and Malcuit’s absence, meanwhile, will pave the way for Elseid Hysaj and Mario Rui to also retain their full-back slots. However, there could be one alternative in central midfield.
Fabian Ruiz was left out on the bench in the last game. The Spaniard is now expected to return to the side, at the expense of Stanislav Lobotka. He could partner new signing Diego Demme and the ever-present figure of Piotr Zielinski at the base of Napoli’s 4-3-3.
Moving forward, Gattuso has very little options in the attack, with both Dries Mertes and Amin Younes out injured. Hence, the front trio of Jose Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik are all expected to retain their place in the starting lineup, though Hirving Lozano is also pushing for a start.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ospina; Hysaj, Manolas, Lorenzo, Rui; Ruiz, Demme, Zielinski; Callejon, Milik, Insigne
While Gattuso is bereft of resources, Sarri will look to ring in a few changes from the side that secured a 3-1 win over AS Roma in Coppa Italia. Daniele Rugani was given a rare start in that fixture. But, the Italian defender could once again return to the bench, in favour of Matthijs de Ligt.
The Dutchman will partner Leonardo Bonucci in central defence while the full-back areas will be occupied by Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado, who could replace Danilo.
In midfield, Miralem Pjanic is a guaranteed starter in the holding role. But, both Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are pushing for a start, at the expense of Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur. Emre Can is also an option, but he has been linked with a move away from Turin this January.
In attack, meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey is guaranteed to return to the side. The Welshman is tipped to operate in the number ten role, with Sarri likely to switch to a 4-3-1-2 in order to accomodate the pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, de Ligt, Sandro; Bernardeschi, Pjanic, Matuidi; Ramsey; Higuain, Ronaldo
- Juventus have won their last three Serie A games against Napoli; the last time the Bianconeri recorded at least four wins in a row against the same team in the competition dates back to December 1993.
- Napoli have won only one of their last eight league games against Juventus.
- Napoli have lost four Serie A home games in a row for the first time since 1998: the Partenoperi have never lost five consecutive home games in the competition.
- Juventus are the only team in the top five European leagues to have gained at least 50 points after 20 games played in each of the last three seasons.
- Since the arrival of Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli last December, they have recorded the lowest shot conversion rate in the league (4.3%). Juventus are first in this ranking in the same period (16.9%).
Player to Watch
Despite his ageing figure, Ronaldo has continued to light up Serie A with his incredible performances week in week out. He is currently Juventus’ top goalscorer this season with 19 goals in all competitions – significantly more than his strike partner Higuain.
Ronaldo had to play the full ninety minutes in the win over Roma, where he scored the all-important equaliser. And he will be expected to play a critical role once again as the Bianconeri look to continue their excellent run of form in the domestic competitions.
Napoli 1-3 Juventus
Given Gattuso’s love for high press, we could expect Napoli to cause an early scare to the travelling Juventus in this game. However, the visitors’ sheer quality going forward could be way too much for the home defence that is decimated by injuries. Hence, we expect Sarri’s side to snatch all three points from his former team this weekend.