Tricky Trip To Naples For The Old Lady
Napoli v Juventus
First-placed Juventus have begun to look fallible in recent weeks and face a tricky trip to Naples on Sunday with hosts Napoli aiming to up the ante in their own title challenge.
Napoli returned to action following the festive break with a thumping 4-1 win away to bottom club Cesena – their fourth victory in five matches – to move Rafa Benitez’s men up to fourth in the table, with only goal difference separating themselves from Lazio in third. They’ve now scored eight times in their last four outings and lost only one of the last 14 in all competitions although they’ve conceded more goals on home soil than any other side in the top half of the table.
A brace against Cesena put Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain level with Jose Callejon on nine league goals for the season although the former leads the way with 13 goals overall as the Spaniard has failed to register in any other competition.
The reigning champions and league leaders have often looked to be an inevitable stroll to another Scudetto this season but three draws in their last four Serie A matches, including a 1-1 home stalemate with mid-table Inter on Tuesday. Juve have, however, suffered just one defeat in the Italian top flight all season, despite only winning once in their last six overall and failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their last four outings either side of the winter break.
Carlos Tevez is the top scorer in Serie A this season, after the former Manchester City striker scored his 11th league goal against Inter and his 16th in all competitions.
New arrival Manolo Gabbiadini may not have his paperwork completed in time to face the club he was co-owned by until earlier this week but Croatian full-back Ivan Strinic should be available to make his debut following a free transfer. Benitez is without a couple of attacking options as Michu and Lorenzo Insigne are both sidelined through injury with defenders Faouzi Ghoulam and Juan Zuniga also expected to miss out.
Andrea Barzagli, Kwadwo Asamoah and Romulo are all still out for the visitors but Martin Caceres and Luca Marrone could feature once more following lengthy injury layoffs after remaining on the bench for their draw with Inter.
The pair clashed for the first time this season in the Italian Super Cup less than a month ago when Napoli triumphed 6-5 in a penalty shootout after extra time as Tevez and Higuain both exchanged doubles for their sides in a 2-2 draw. Both teams earned home wins without conceding a goal in last season’s fixtures.
The Naples club have won only one of the past six inside 90 minutes however, but Juve haven’t won at the Stadio San Paulo since the turn of the century.
As the season enters a crucial point, this could prove a pivotal game for both sides and there looks to be some value in the hosts at 9/5 against a side who’ve looked nervy in recent games and find it tough on this ground.
At 9/4 the draw seems most likely though, as only penalties could separate the sides after two hours only three weeks ago, while it’s tough to see either keeping out the other’s attacking talents either so take both to score at 3/4 while an in-form Higuain looks slightly overpriced at 7/4 to score anytime.