Juventus will be hoping to get into the Serie A top three when they lock horns with Napoli at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday.
After bowing out of the UEFA Champions League, Juventus’s fixtures have eased up a little and this midweek, they will look to make up for their one remaining match in Serie A on Wednesday. They will be facing a daunting opposition in Napoli, at a time when they have struggled with form, thus leaving Andrea Pirlo under a lot of pressure.
Indeed, the Bianconeri are dawdling in the fourth position, having failed to win their last two matches. Their most recent mishap came against local rivals Torino, although Juventus, in truth, did well to come back from a goal down to seal a 2-2 draw.
Nevertheless, the result leaves them fourth in the league table, two behind Atalanta. Juventus, however, could climb to third if they salvage all three points, as they do have a game in hand over Gian Piero Gasperini’s men. Napoli, too, have a game in hand and are hoping to seal a victory that would help them move ahead of not only Juventus but also Atalanta.
The Partenopei have been in good form recently, notably securing four back to backs wins in the league as the race for the Champions League places hots up during this final stretch of the campaign. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial match-up in Serie A this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Andrea Pirlo will be demanding some resistance at the back after conceding twice against rivals Torino last time out. Unfortunately, though, the Italian tactician is devoid of options in defence as both Merih Demiral and Leonardo Bonucci are out after testing positive for COVID-19.
It leaves Matthijs de Ligt and Georgio Chiellini as the only two options to line up at the heart of the four-man backline. Pirlo does have the option of deploying a three-man backline by slotting Danilo on the right-hand side, but that remains unlikely against Napoli, who prefer a 4-2-3-1 under Gennaro Gattuso.
Juan Cuadrado has been an inspiration at right-back of late and remains a guaranteed starter. The same cannot be said for Alex Sandro, who might have to make way for Danilo this midweek.
Danilo’s potential appearance at left-back, though, could create a void in defensive midfield so the onus will be on Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur to offer the stability as well as the control in the middle of the park. They could also play a vital role in possession and recycling the ball, knowing Napoli do like to play on the counter.
Moving ahead, Weston McKennie has been reintegrated back to the squad, although it seems Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa could both get the nod ahead of him and Aaron Ramsey, as far as the wide midfield areas are concerned.
McKennie and Ramsey do remain options on the bench, as reinforcements in the creative unit – one that will look to offer adequate support for the two attackers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, de Ligt, Chiellini, Danilo; Chiesa, Rabiot, Bentancur, Bernardeschi; Ronaldo, Morata
As mentioned earlier, Gennaro Gattuso is an admirer of the 4-2-3-1 formation, with a counter-attacking style of play that will be hope to exploit the vulnerable nature of the Juventus backline.
The former AC Milan coach is not particularly fond of Victor Osimhen, but his pace and power could be useful for Napoli to shred the Juve defence. On that note, Gattuso may also want to recall Hirving Lozano back into the side, as the Mexican international has the pace that could be useful on the counter.
Lozano and Lorenzo Insigne should start out wide, with Dries Mertens operating as the supporting striker to Osimhen. Alternatively, Gattuso could start with Piotr Zielinski, with either Osimhen or Mertens spearheading the Napoli frontline.
Another key aspect for the Partenopei, though, is the midfield unit where the duo of Tiemoue Bakayoko and Fabian Ruiz offer good variety. They will be key in not only creating chances but also disrupting the flow of the opposition in possession.
Defensively, Napoli will be boosted by the return of Kalidou Kouilibaly from suspension. The experienced centre-back will be tasked with the responsibility of marshalling the backline alongside Kostas Manolas while Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Mario Rui operate as the full-backs.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Rui; Bakayoko, Ruiz; Lozano, Mertens, Insigne; Osimhen
- Napoli were the victorious side when these two teams last met each other, earlier in February. with Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty strike turning out to be the winner.
- Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has never finished below third in the league during his decorated professional footballing career.
- Juventus have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last five matches in all competitions. Yet, they have the best defensive record in the league with only 25 conceded, one fewer than table-toppers Inter.
- Since their elimination from the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Granada, Napoli have won five of their six matches, including a narrow 1-0 triumph over AC Milan.
- Only Atalanta (68) and Inter Milan (66) have managed to score more goals than Napoli (62) in the Serie A this season.
Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 47% of the Juventus' goal this year, Winning around 16 points. Without him, the Bianconeri would be in 9th place in the standings with 40 points. [SportMediaset] #juvelive pic.twitter.com/yerXM9oyIq
— Forza Juventus (@ForzaJuveEN) April 4, 2021
Despite the waves of criticism in the aftermath of a shock exit from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of FC Porto, Cristiano Ronaldo has been pretty much the one-man army as far as the Juventus attack is concerned. He is already the league’s top goalscorer with 24 scalps and has proven himself in front of goal since the UEFA Champions League exit.
As the Bianconeri continue to struggle in finding the rhythm and cohesion going forward, the onus will once again be on Ronaldo to spill his magic on the proceedings. His aerial presence inside the box coupled with the ability to score from range makes him quite a danger man for a Napoli defence that has otherwise looked solid in recent weeks.
It will be particularly interesting to see how the returning Koulibaly deals with Ronaldo and whether or not his imposing presence at the back will be enough to stop the Portuguese international this midweek.
Juventus 1-2 Napoli
Juventus could have a hard time once again in dealing with the efficient Napoli attack that can not only trouble them with pace on the break but are also adept in creating scoring opportunities. And with Kalidou Koulibaly back in contention, the Bianconeri could face more difficulties in finding a good rhythm in their approach play. We are expecting a narrow 2-1 win for the visitors.