Napoli take on Juventus at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday, April 22 in a game that will decide the Serie A title. Here’s what to need to know before you watch.
Juventus’ six-point lead evaporated on Wednesday after the Bianconeri played Crotone to a 1-1 draw, while Napoli plowed forward with a 4-2 come-from-behind home victory against Udinese. That leaves Juventus with a four-point edge going into Sunday’s game of the year against Napoli at Allianz Stadium.
Juventus and Napoli have gone back and forth all season. Both are playing top-level soccer, distinguishing themselves for their ability to rout opponents and manage games in multiple competitions, including the Champions League and Coppa Italia. While Juve tried, and failed, to win it all in Europe, Napoli’s main objective all season has been what would be their first Serie A title since 1990.
“They’re still there fighting for the title and they have every chance. It’s normal that, as it’s the only objective they have, there’s more pressure on them but we have to be ready,” Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri told reporters earlier this week.
Juventus defeated Napoli 1-0 the first time the sides met in Naples on matchday 15.
Juventus do need to be ready for Napoli. While the club have been a domestic powerhouse, winning six straight titles, they aren’t immune to defeat. Their defense, a source of pride in season’s past, has had lapses this season. This is where Napoli can exploit those weaknesses with their precision passing and Maurizio Sarri’s offensive-minded tactics.
In response, Allegri may go with the same lineup he used recently in his side’s 3-1 win against Real Madrid in the Champions League. In that game, Juve used the right side to create plays and maintain possession through Sami Khedira and Douglas Costa. Allegri left Costa on the bench at the start of the season, but has used him to great effect in recent weeks.
The attack, which also features Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, is part of Allegri’s 4-3-3 formation with Miralem Pjanic pulling the strings in midfield. While Pjanic is in doubt after he was injured in last Sunday’s 3-0 win against Sampdoria, Allegri may need to insert Paulo Dybala into the lineup and field a 4-2-3-1 that favors the defense with a focus on the counter-attack.
While that could be what Allegri does given that a draw would also benefit his side, Sarri will likely go with a 4-3-3 with the frontline of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon. Mertens, who was rested against Udinese, will be fresh on Sunday. Off the bench, striker Arkadiusz Milik has also been in great form and could be vital in the second half depending on how the game is going.
For Napoli, the use of triangles and short passes, an integral part of their possession game, allow the Partenopei to move the ball quickly. All this passing also tires out opponents, who find themselves having to chase around for the ball and disrupt their own shape.
“It’s disappointing that we allowed those two goals [against Udinese], but I am happy because I saw the team playing with real sharpness again,” Sarri told reporters on Wednesday. “Our team always tries to take the initiative … regardless of venue, opponent or situation. That is our philosophy. Clearly, it’s difficult to go to Turin and try to get the victory, as in terms of strength in depth, I think Juventus are the most complete team in Europe. We’ll give it our best shot.”
The match between Juventus and Napoli will be broadcast live on beIN Sports. Live streaming is also available on beIN Sports Connect, which you can access with your cable or satellite subscription, either online or through their app.
In conclusion, Juventus have a deeper roster and more options. Napoli have not utilized the turnover to their advantage despite the many games they’ve to play. This could be what makes the difference Sunday. Nonetheless, Allegri warned not to celebrate too early. He said he’s “heard far too much talk about scudetto celebrations” in recent weeks.
“We need to keep a low profile, work towards our objectives and do our talking on the pitch,” he added.
What Juve’s play says Sunday will go a long way to answering the question of whether they can win a seventh straight title. Napoli have a real chance here to show everyone they’re for real. Only a Napoli win can bring what has already been a great title race down to the wire. As Sarri said, Napoli will be giving it a shot.