On Sunday night, two of Serie A's title favorites are set to measure themselves against one another. Current title holders, Juventus, host this round's most important match, welcoming a team looking to strip them of their title. Will some of them manage to wound the rivals in the match in which a draw would be a perfect result for Roma While this derby isn't, historically, as huge as the duels in the Juventus - AC Milan - Inter Milan triangle, Juventus and Napoli do have a feisty rivalry. And that rivalry goes beyond football. As is the case throughout most of the world, this rivalry has its roots in politics. In a relatively young country like Italy, regional and political differences still influence relations, at least when it comes to football. Napoli, a representative of the poor south, are climbing their way to the top of Italian football, leaving the likes of Milan and Inter behind. But can they do the same to the Old Lady?
Both teams are feeling fatigued, both physically and mentally, after tough games in the Champions League.With Napoli giving their all in a win over Marseille, and Juventus battling out a difficult draw with Real Madrid, both Rafa Benítez and Antonio Conte may struggle with the selection process. It's the hosts, however, that will have a tougher time of it.
Giorgio Chiellini, a regular in the bianconeri defense, is out injured. Uruguay have insisted Martín Cáceres join the national team for preparations ahead of the playoff match against Jordan. Add to that the absence of Stephan Lichtsteiner at the back and this is a significantly weaker Juve than we're used to. Without Chiellini and Cáceres, Conte will return to a three men defense. It will be up to Angelo Ogbonna to step into Chiellini's shoes, but he's done little to impress this season. .The wingbacks, too, could be a weak spot for Juventus. While Kwadwo Asamoah is getting the job done on the left , Mauricio Isla, who is tipped to start on the right side, hasn't done much of anything in his four starts this season.
The edges might be weak, but the central midfield and attack are still Juventus's lethal weapons. Despite his age, Andrea Pirlo remains key: if he's in form, Juve are in form. The partenopei must find a way to deal with the legendary regista if they want to get anything from this game. It's expected that either Marek Hamšíkor Gonzalo Higuaínwill track Pirlo in an attempt to interfere with his ball distribution. But it's not just Pirlo Napoli have to worry about, of course. Arturo Vidal already has already scored five goals this season, Paul Pogba three. Their forward runs, and those of Claudio Marchisio if he starts, are Juve's biggest weapon.
But, after a season without any true forward presence, the Old Lady's strikers can't be discounted. It is expected that Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez will partner up top. The Spaniard has been slowly getting into form, even scoring a crucial goal against Madrid midweek, after spending the early part of the season on the bench. Tévez, on the other hand, is already well integrated in this Juve side, almost as if he's played there for years. His ability to press opposition and, well, his obvious ability to score goals make him vital to this bianconeri side.
Rafa, too, must deal with selection headaches. Napoli are still without Camilo Zúñiga, while Giandomenico Mesto tore his ACL last week, forcing the azzurri to sign French veteran Anthony Réveillère. , The newest Napoli defender won't be available, andwith Pablo Armero and Christian Maggio not being in great form, the visitors will also be weak defensively. Fortunately, Napoli have a trio of Swiss holding midfielders to choose from to protect the back line, with Valon Behrami and Gökhan Inler almost certain to start. They will have tough job of containing Juve's midfield and will have to be extremely cautious about those already mentioned forward runs.
Napoli's experienced Spanish tactician will no doubt look to take advantage of Juve's problems and use his brilliant offensive players to get the result. Considering the current form of the partenopei forwards, particularly José Callejón and Dries Mertens, Juventus may indeed suffer at the back. Hamšík has perhaps been playing a little below his level recently, after a great start to a season, but Benítez rested him against Marseille on Wednesday, and the Napoli captain will almost certainly step up for such a big occasion. In the end, though, the biggest threat to a somewhat shaky Juve's defense will be Gonzalo Higuaín. Pipita has already proven that the mountain of money that Napoli paid for him was well spent, with five goals and three assists in ten games. He may be new to the Juventus - Napoli rivalry, but Higuaín might have special incentive to score, having long been linked with a move to black-white part of Turin.
Juventus injuries and suspensions
Simone Pepe, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Mirko Vucinic, Giorgio Chiellini (injured); Martín Cáceres (away on national team duty)
Napoli injuries and suspensions
Camilo Zúñiga, Giandomenico Mesto (injured)
Projected line ups
Sunday, November 10 at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET.
Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy
beIN Sport USA, RAI Internazionale, SiriusXM FC (USA); BT Sport 1 (UK); Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Premium Calcio 1, Sky 3D Italia, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy)
beIN Sport Play (USA); bet365