It is a clash of the titans in Serie A as Juventus head to Naples to take on arch-rivals Napoli in a blockbuster clash early in the season. Napoli have kicked off their season on a winning note, while Juventus are yet to inspire confidence among their fans after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The fervent Campanilismo that underpins all of the Italian football rivalries is accentuated every time these two top-flight clubs meet, and Italy’s North-South rivalry will once again be featured on the field
Here’s our preview of the Serie A fixture between historic rivals Juventus and Napoli.
Napoli have made a confident start to the season, registering a 2-0 victory over Venezia in their opening fixture and a 2-1 win over Genoa.
Luciano Spalletti’s squad have not lost a single fixture since his appointment in July, registering victories in all the club friendlies.
The Partenopei enter Saturday’s fixture on the back of a 5-1 win over Benevento and would be eager to continue their good form against their arch-rivals.
The international break, however, has created some concern in the Naples camp with Alex Meret, Diego Demme, Faouzi Ghoulam, and Stanislav Lobotka carrying injuries and Antonio Cioffi still in doubt.
Victor Osimhen is available as his two-match ban has been reduced after an appeal. Poland star Piotr Zieliński seems to have recovered from his knee injury, but his fitness for the fixture needs to be seen.
Andre Zambo Anguissa and Fabian Ruiz could make their debuts in the middle and Eljif Elmas will have a big responsibility on his shoulders to lead the newcomers. Captain Lorenzo Insigne, who is just back from Italy duty, will be aiming to continue his goalscoring run versus the Old Lady.
After weeks of intense speculation and possible ill feelings, Juventus announced that Cristiano Ronaldo will be leaving the club late last month.
The effects of the departure of their lead striker and last season’s Capocannoniere are immediately felt – as Juve slumped to a surprising 1-0 defeat against newly-promoted Empoli in their second fixture of the season.
It is a spectacular fall from the top for the Turin-based club over the course of last year – from single-handedly dominating Serie A for an entire decade to the 12th spot in the table. But these are still early days and Massimiliano Allegri has both the skill and the intent to turn things around soon.
Juventus have booked a chartered flight for their South American stars to keep them fit and ready for the weekend. Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala, and Rodrigo Bentancur will land in Italy on Friday and it remains to be seen if Massimiliano Allegri can manage to field the fatigued players.
Federico Chiesa, who is Juventus’ most important player in the starting XI after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United, is likely to miss the fixture with a muscular sprain. If he recovers in time, Allegri will breathe easier as heading to Naples without their main winger will be a terrible proposition for the Turin club.
If both Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa miss the fixture, it will be an opportunity for the young Moise Kean to prove his worth up front alongside Alvaro Morata.
HEAD TO HEAD
The rivalry between Turin-based Juventus and Naples-based Napoli is one of Italy’s most enduring and fervent rivalries. Going back to the days of Diego Maradona, the clubs have contested in some of the most tightly-fought games amidst much drama off-the-field.
After a brief lull, the rivalry was again ignited last season when Napoli failed to turn up in Turin, giving a political angle to the rivalry.
Juve hold the upper hand over Napoli in the overall head-to-head statistics, reflecting the Turin club’s overall domination of Serie A over the past few decades. Out of a total of 176 official meetings between the rivals, the Bianconeri have won 83 fixtures outright, while Napoli have managed to win just 40.
The fixtures have become more competitive in recent years, however, with Napoli managing to win two out of the last five games between the clubs, and losing just twice. The Partenopei have also won their last fixture against Juve at the Stadio San Paolo and a return of fans to the stadium will only boost their morale.
WHAT TO EXPECT
There might be a better time to witness the historic rivalry unfold on the ground than now as an international break and injuries have depleted the strength of both sides. The absence of stars like Federico Chiesa and Paulo Dybala will hurt Massimiliano Allegri’s plans, while Napoli are yet to be tested against a strong side since Luciano Spalletti took charge.
We expect a 1-1 draw, however, the outcome will be heavily dependent on the fitness of key players for both sides.
Napoli Predicted XI (4-3-3): David Ospina, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marco Rui, Fabian Ruiz, Andre-Frank Anguissa, Eljif Elmas, Matteo Politano, Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens.
Juventus Predicted XI (4-4-2): Wojciech Szczesny, Giorgio Chiellini, Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Mattia De Sciglio, Adrien Rabiot, Manuel Locatelli, Luca Pellegrini, Federico Bernardeschi, Alvaro Morata, Moise Kean.
When: Saturday, 11 September 2021, 9:30 PM IST
Where: Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples.
Where to Watch: All matches of Serie A are streamed live on Voot app. Subscribers of JioTV can also catch all the action live through the app.
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