Rafa’s Boys Look Value Against Old Lady
Juventus v Napoli
Juventus take on Napoli in Serie A on Saturday and the visitors have far more to play for of the two now their hosts have already wrapped up a domestic double.
A 2-1 win after extra-time secured a first Coppa Italia triumph for ten years for Juve, with substitute Alessandro Matri’s goal proving the difference against Lazio to see the Old Lady add cup success to a fourth league title on the bounce.
It’s now just one defeat in 11 outings for Massimo Allegri’s side in all competitions, a run including both Champions League semi-final legs against Real Madrid which saw Juventus progress to the final of club football’s greatest event for the first time since 2003 and with it an opportunity to earn an unprecedented treble for the club.
Their Serie A performances have given Juve a 16-point lead over Roma in second with the best home and away records in the division, the most goals scored and wins along with the meanest defensive record and fewest defeats.
Carlos Tevez is the top scorer in Serie A with 20 league goals for the all-action Argentine and 29 in all competitions, although he has scored just once in his last five appearances.
Napoli’s 3-2 win over Cesana in Serie A last Monday was crucial to their prospects of earning Champions League football next season as it moved them to within three points of Lazio in second with two games remaining – with their next game following this clash with the champions a likely winner-takes all between themselves and the Rome club.
It was a first win in four for Rafa Benitez’s side who know only have the league pathway to Europe next season following their shock Europa League knockout to Dnipro last week. Along with the champions they’re also the division’s top scorers this season having scored three or more goals on ten occasions in Serie A but they’e also conceded more goals than any other side in the top nine.
With 16 Serie A goals Gonzalo Higuain is his side’s top scorer in the league this term, mid-season signing Manolo Gabbiadini isjust a goal behind, although the majority of his goals came before his move from Sampdoria in January.
Allegri named a near full strength side for their midweek cup final, with only Gigi Buffon left out as the manager kept faith with Marco Storari as he had done throughout their cup run but changes could be in the offing here with only Romulo and Martin Caceres ruled out by injury and many of the squad’s fringe players likely to be given the chance to impress.
Juan Zuniga and Jonathan de Guzman are both big doubts for Napoli while Michu is definitely out with a long term knee problem while Benitez must also decide between two of Jose Callejon, Higuain and Gabbiadini for striking berths.
Head to Head
Juve came away from Naples with a 3-1 win in Serie A back in January to earn revenge for their penalty shootout defeat in the Italian Super Cup just three weeks earlier.
In 13 meetings prior to that the Neapolitans have given as good as they’ve got with five wins for each club.
It seems bizarre to see an all-conquering side as the underdogs going into a game at home but with the title sewn up and rotation likely there are valid – if suspicious – reasons for Napoli to be 6/4 favourites against Juve’s 7/4.
That’s a bet worth backing under the circumstances with a win vital to Benitez’s side and with both sides scoring in each of Juve’s last seven and only one clean sheet in eight for Napoli the 8/13 on both scoring looks a shoo-in. Gabbiadini has six goals in his last nine games and looks a great price at 13/8 to score anytime and 6/1 to bag the first.