The big game in Italy this weekend sees Juventus travel south to face Napoli in a fixture that always seems to court controversy.
SARRI UNDER PRESSURE FROM A NAPOLI LEGEND
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has been attracting all the wrong attention over the past couple of weeks as the undisputed king of the city Diego Maradona, used the Italian media to criticise the way the club’s new tactician has gone about his business. When the “Pibe de Oro” or “The Golden Boy” speaks, people of the city listen and after an indifferent start which has seen them drift out to *3.25 on the best online sports websites to finish in the top three, Sarri must find a quick solution to appease the clubs fanatical fan base. Results such as last weekend’s 5-0 destruction of Lazio will certainly help, but this most infuriatingly inconsistent of sides showed their fallibility once again in midweek, only taking a share of the points after a goalless draw against Carpi. Sarri, who is Neapolitan born, knows all about the high esteem Maradona is held in and replied by stating (tongue in cheek) that he must be doing “something right” for the great man to even have heard of him. If the coach wants to elevate himself to god-like status, then beating their bitter rivals from Turin on Saturday will be a step in the right direction.
JUVENTUS HELD AT HOME ONCE AGAIN
A fantastic away win at Manchester City in their opening group game in the Champions League followed by a first domestic win of the new campaign away in Genoa looked to have got the reigning champions back on track. So much for the form guide then as bottom side Frosinone upset all football bet predictions by holding the Old Lady to a 1-1 draw in Turin on Wednesday. Coach Allegri is under pressure of that there is no doubt and he will not have slept any easier after reading that in the last 20 Serie A season’s, only one side has won the title after collecting eight or less points after five matches – Milan in 2010-11. He will take heart however, from the fact that he himself was in charge of that Rossoneri team. Juventus currently have five points from their opening five matches.
Sarri is set to stick to his 4-3-3 system which has now become his preferred starting formation. He is also boosted by having virtually a full complement of players to select from. His main decision will be whether to play Belgian international Dries Mertens, Spaniard José Callejón or Manolo Gabbiadini (who almost won the game for his side after coming on as a substitute against Carpi) in the attacking trident alongside Gonzalo Higuain (who is competitively priced on the best online betting sites at *5.00 to grab the first goal on Saturday) and Lorenzo Insigne.
His opposite number has major injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s trip south. Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira are both missing through injury and there are doubts surrounding Croatian striker Mario Mandžukić. There was also a scary moment for defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on Wednesday when he was substituted at half-time complaining of breathing difficulties. After spending the night in hospital, the Swiss international was discharged but his participation on Saturday is highly doubtful.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Napoli (4-3-3) Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamšík; Mertens, Higuain, Insigne
Juventus (3-5-2) Buffon; Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini; Cuadrado, Lemina, Hernanes, Pogba, Evra; Dybala, Morata
HEAD TO HEAD
Past history points to it being a tight contest on Saturday evening. The last 16 matches in all competitions played at the San Paolo have seen Napoli win six times, Juventus five, with five meetings ending in parity. The hosts are in a rich vein of scoring form on their own patch, having rifled in 10 in their last two matches against Club Brugge and Lazio respectively. Juventus had the upper hand in both corresponding fixtures last season, Napoli’s last win against the Old Lady at the San Paolo coming in March 2014.
Napoli 2.20 Draw 3.30 Juventus 3.40
*odds courtesy of Bet365
By Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)