Napoli vs Juventus Preview: the destined Serie A title race
If anyone knows anything about Italy, they know the rift that exists between north and south. Italian football is no different, as the northern clubs in Milan and Turin have won most of the championships, while the southern clubs have struggled to win.
Napoli and Juventus are two teams with great, albeit very different, histories. Juventus is the most winningest side in Italian football history, while Napoli had a brief spell at the top of Italy thanks to Diego Maradona. Juventus has the most fans in the peninsula, but Napoli probably have the strongest local fanbase of any team. Although they have different histories and different successes, you can say the two teams were destined to meet each other eventually with the scudetto on the line.
It all started when the original Napoli went bankrupt and Aurelio De Laurentiis restarted the club. In 2006-07 he brought the club back to Serie B, Italy's second division, and it just so happened that Juventus joined them. Juve, as football fans know by now, was sent down to the second division for the 2006-07 season thanks to their alleged involvement in the calciopoli scandal. Fate had it that these two teams would meet in Serie B, and both get promoted to Serie A. So you can say that they both started their new lives in Serie A together.
These paths have led the two teams to this season, as they battle it out for the championship. Yes, we can't forget about Inter and Roma, but let's put them aside for a minute. The best part about Napoli fighting for the scudetto is that it's a breath of fresh air. We are so used to seeing Juventus and the Milanese teams win and it is great to have a little southern blood in the race.
Napoli is great for the neutral fan. They are an exciting team for an exciting place, playing a beautiful brand of football and led by a manager that was a banker up until the age of 40. They have beaten the odds as they have recovered from losing great players like Edison Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain, who actually left for Juventus. The players who have stayed have fell in love with the city and are just as passionate as the fan base. They know what it would mean to Naples if they were able to be crowned champions in May.
As for Juventus, don't sleep on the old lady. One of the best parts of this title race is that if Napoli were to win, it won't happen just because they are facing a weak Juventus. Juve have been to two Champions League finals in three years. They have made Italy proud in Europe at a time it desperately needed to feel proud. They have world class players in their side like Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa, Higuain and Miralem Pjanic. This is also Gianluigi Buffon's last season, so the desire to win for him is also there for the bianconeri. If Napoli were to win, they would be overcoming a great side.
Enough with history and the background, here is the match preview:
Napoli vs Juventus (December 1st at 20:45 Italian time)
The match itself will be great and entertaining. Both teams have started the season well as Napoli have 38 points from 14 matches while Juventus has 34 from 14. Napoli beat Udinese 1-0 away last weekend while Juventus crushed Crotone 3-0 at home. Max Allegri received good news as Gonzalo Higuain will be fit for the match, while Napoli come into the match healthy except for the loss of Faouzi Ghoulam, their left back who suffered a long term injury. It will be an intense match as Napoli have the opportunity to open up a seven point gap on Juventus, while Juve will look to win in order to breath down their rivals necks again, cutting the deficit to one point.
Players to watch
Napoli - Dries Mertens
Mertens has been great this season, scoring some terrific goals, however, he has not scored in his last three Serie A matches. He will want to show Napoli fans that Higuain isn't missed at all.
Juventus - Paulo Dybala
Dybala is probably the best player in Serie A, and after hearing all of the publicity the Napoli attacking trident is receiving this season, he'll want to remind people.
Prediction - Napoli 1-1 Juventus
Neutral fans will be hoping for an entertaining match, and they'll get one. Both teams will be dangerous and have opportunities to score. It will be interesting to see both teams play out of the back as they also both press high up the pitch. While it would be great to see one of these teams win, a draw is more likely. Juventus will not want to risk falling seven points behind Napoli, as a seven point gap is much worse than a four point gap, and Napoli will not want to risk Juve winning and gaining three points on them, as a one point cushion is much more nervy than a four point cushion. One team will go ahead in the first half, while the other will equalize soon after the break. After that, they will both stop taking risks and be happy to leave the match with a point