Napoli   V  Juventus

Serie A – Week 18 [Sunday, 11th January – 19:45 GMT] – Stadio San Paolo



Juventus will have to put the Derby D’Italia and their recent run of draws behind them when they face a tricky visit to the Stadio San Paolo to face Napoli on Sunday.

The Bianconeri haven’t exactly had the best of Christmases, with only just the one victory to show for the entire month of December, a 3-1 away win against lowly Cagliari. The team travelled to Doha for the Supercoppa Italiana but lost out on penalties, followed by a disappointing start to 2015 after Tuesday night’s draw against Inter in the Derby D’Italia.

All the talk in the last few days has been of the possible arrival of Wesley Sneijder who Juve are apparently in negotations for, the hope being he will arrive in time to help Max Allegri rotate the squad for both the Champions League and Serie A.

Gianluigi Buffon has been one of the highlights of the season so far, his last two matches being particularly impressive and he’s expected to start in goal. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are still the preferred central defence pairing, while Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra will likely start in their customary full back roles.

Allegri will hopefully stick to his best 4 midfielders with Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio playing in a 3-man central midfield while Arturo Vidal will play behind a front pairing of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.

Predicted Lineup

4-3-1-2 :  Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio, Vidal; Tevez, Llorente


Andrea Barzagli (Heel), Kwadwo Asamoah and Romulo  (Both undergone knee surgery)

Luca Marrone (Thigh) and Martin Caceres (Thigh) are returning to match fitness.




Napoli have added two players since Juventus faced them in Doha: Ivan Strinic and Manolo Gabbiadini. They are not slated to start (things can change though), but they could find room during the game. Strinic is a solid and muscular left-back that replaces Faouzi Ghoulam, who’s partaking to AFCON, and will battle with the Algerian defender once he’ll be back. Gabbiadini is one more option on the right flank behind the lone striker, where he played last year and at Bologna, and another backup for Gonzalo Higuain. It will be interesting to see whether he’ll start consistently, considering the poor performances of Dries Mertens this season and that Jonathan De Guzman isn’t very effective on the left, but also the fee (with Josè Callejon moving on the other wing).

Most importantly, they arrive to this game with a lot of confidence, after defeating Juventus in the Super Cup on penalties and beating convincingly Cesena. Their attack is clicking: Higuain is in stellar form and Callejon and Marek Hamsik have resumed scoring. Cesena wasn’t certainly a tough test, but it boosted the morale that was already way up after coming back twice in the Super Cup. Like in Doha, Rafa Benitez won’t have Lorenzo Insigne, Juan Camilo Zuniga and Michu at disposal, plus Ghoulam. Migual Britos is set to start at LB: it makes the defensive line a little more physical, but Lichtsteiner could take advantage of his lack of pace.

San Paolo has been hostile to Juventus in recent years. The Turin side last won in Naples in 2000, losing five games (and two in a resounding way in the dark years) and drawing four. Conte’s Invincible Army came back form 3-1 to 3-3 three years ago: it was early in the season, but that game was instrumental in forging the identity of that Scudetto team. Last season, Conte’s 102-point squad lost 2-0. In addition, if you believe that this stuff can have an impact, it will be an emotional night as Napoli will pay homage to the home singer Pino Daniele who recently passed away.

Napoli are a tough match up for Juventus as they don’t need much room to score, especially when Higuain is in such good condition. Juventus will have to be careful with the ball in any position of the field, as they have many players who are able to counter quickly, but they are as good in an organized attack, as we have seen in the Super Cup. Their unpredictability is difficult to contain. I bet that at this point Napoli feel to have Juventus’ numbers: it will be up to Allegri’s squad to prove them wrong.

Predicted Lineup:

4-2-3-1 : Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Britos; Gargano, David Lopez; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain.


Juan Zuniga, Lorenzo Insigne, Michu and Faouzi Ghoulam