Juventus will be on the hunt for their first win of the new season when they take on Napoli at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Saturday.
Following a week-long international break, the Serie A returns to action this weekend, with Juventus’ trip to Napoli on Saturday serving as one of the most exciting games of Matchday 3 of the new season.
For the visiting Juventus, it hasn’t been an ideal start to the campaign, having failed to win any of their two matches so far. They drew their first match to Udinese before enduring a shock defeat to Empoli on Matchday 2. It has mounted heaps of early pressure on coach Massimiliano Allegri, who replaced Andrea Pirlo in the summer.
With many criticising the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Bianconeri certainly have to prove themselves and get back on track sooner rather than later. But their route to salvation won’t be made any easier as they face Napoli on Saturday.
Unlike Juve, the Partenopei have enjoyed a splendid start to the season with two back to back wins over Venezia and Genoa respectively. There is no doubt that Juventus will provide a far more challenging test, but Luciano Spalletti’s men have shown a lot of confidence, despite a 5-1 defeat to Benevento in a friendly during the international break.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at these two sides ahead of their blockbuster encounter at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Saturday.
Team News & Tactics
🎙#Spalletti: "The team is in good shape. We've shown good intensity in training and everyone can make an important contribution in this match."
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) September 10, 2021
Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti is missing some key players heading into this game including Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski and goalkeeper Alex Meret. Fortunately, their second choice ‘keeper David Ospina is apparently cleared to feature on Saturday, which should alleviate the problems in between the sticks.
The absence of Zielinski, however, will have a major blow on Napoli’s chance creation. The further unavailability of Lobotka means the onus will be on Fabian Ruiz to offer the creative essence in the middle of the park, alongside Eljif Elmas while new signing Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa might receive a rare opportunity to make an impression.
The former Fulham star, in fact, is going to play a vital role in screening the back-four that is likely to remain unchanged. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly do form an excellent partnership, but their defensive prowess will be put to the test up against the Juventus attack.
Mario Rui, meanwhile, will be given the license to make attacking runs from the left-back position. He should provide the width to Napoli’s offensive game, potentially supporting Lorenzo Insigne on the flanks.
Back from international duty, Insigne could indeed slot into a wider role in order to accommodate Victor Osimhen, with Matteo Politano starting on the right. They form a very versatile attacking trio and Insigne’s tendency to drift inside should bode well for Rui’s overlapping runs out wide.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Rui; Anguissa, Euiz, Elmas; Politano, Osimhen, Insigne
Juventus have their fair share of personnel problems heading into this game. Juan Cuadrado, Alex Sandro, Rodrigo Bentancur, Danilo and Paulo Dybala have all been ruled out, which is not ideal for Allegri and his quest to avoid an eighth successive winless streak in Serie A.
Cuadrado’s absence could be the biggest blow of them all, as the club lacks a competent right-back to replace him. Mattia De Sciglio is the favourite to start, while Luca Pellegrini should come in for Sandro on the opposite flank. Their performance could go a long way in helping Juventus dominate this game, especially with their darting runs out wide.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 10, 2021
But in central defence, Juventus are likely to continue with the rugged combo of Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt. This fixture of youth and experience gives them an excellent balance, although another veteran in Leonardo Bonucci is also pushing for a start.
In midfield, Bentancu and Danilo’s absence gives Massimiliano Allegri three options between Manuel Locatelli, Weston McKennie and Aaron Ramsey, providing Adrien Rabiot remains a starter on the three-man midfield setup.
However, having too many similar midfielders in the middle could be redundant for Juve, which is why Allegri might opt for the double-pivot of Rabiot and Locatelli, with McKennie serving as the number ten. It should offer him the privilege of unleashing an extra wide player.
Dejan Kulusevski is the most likely candidate, as the Dybala is missing and the Swede has the tendency to drift inside. He and Federico Chiesa, therefore, should occupy the wide attacking role, with Alvaro Morata spearheading the Juventus defence. New signing Moise Kean is a potential alternative, either out wide or centrally.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Di Sciglio, de Ligt, Chiellini, Pellegrini; Rabiot, Locatelli; Chiesa, McKennie, Kulusevski; Morata
- There has only been one draw in the last 16 matches between Napoli and Juventus in Serie A (1-1 in April 2017 at San Paolo Stadium): in this run Napoli have registered juve five wins.
- In the last two Serie A campaigns, the match between Napoli and Juventus have always been won by the host team (two wins for Napoli in Campania and two for Juventus in Turin). The Partenopei could win at least three home matches in a row against the Bianconeri in Serie A for the first time since January 2011.
- Napoli could win each of their first three games in two consecutive Serie A seasons for the second time, after doing so in 2012/13 and 2013/14.
- Juventus have picked up only one point this season; in their previous 51 Serie A campaigns, only in 2015/16 (D1 L2) have the Bianconeri failed to win any of their first three league games to a season.
- Massimiliano Allegri hasn’t won any of his last seven league games (D4 L3); only three managers in Juventus’ history have had a longer streak in Serie A: Carlo Parola in 1974 (11), Sandro Puppo in 1956 (twice, 13 and 8) and Virginio Rosetta in 1938 (8).
Player to Watch
Juventus are currently all over the place, with no one willing to show any initiative to move forward and offer the leadership. But for a certain Federico Chiesa, it could be an exciting opportunity to further impose himself in the Turin himself and firmly establish himself as one of the club’s leading figures this season.
Chiesa has performed well to back up his quality, too, notably starring in the defeat to Empoli. He never really had any support from his teammates, but this time around, the exciting winger might be given far more opportunities in the final third, knowing Napoli would want to attack as well, thus leaving gaps in the defence.
The former Fiorentina man, therefore, is certainly the one player worth keeping an eye on, for this blockbuster encounter in Naples this weekend.
Napoli 1-1 Juventus
This is a difficult game to predict as both sides have a lot of quality and at the same time, are missing key players. Juventus are the slight favourites due to their quality and experience, but a toned-down squad due to injuries might not be able to achieve much against the Partenopei who have already won their first two matches.
We are expecting a cagey affair, with both sides playing cautious football while struggling to create too many opportunities. In the end, it might go down as a low-scoring draw as neither side may be able to conjure up the firepower.