This weekend of the 2019/20 Serie A season is one of the more anticipated rounds, with it having been circled on the calendar ever since it came out last month.
Saturday evening sees two of the league‘s main title contenders pitted against one another at Juventus Stadium in Turin as Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus play host to Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli. Though the attention and buzz surrounding this fixture stems from Sarri’s first match against his former club, his status for the bench remains unclear at the moment. In any case, this clash promises to deliver plenty of excitement, tension and drama.
Here are five key elements which could determine the outcome of this round 2 encounter.
Will Napoli be able to tie up loose ends defensively and perform to their potential?
On paper, the San Paolo outfit has a much improved back line from last season, and one that projects to be among the best units in Italy. Napoli have successfully upgraded over veteran Raul Albiol with the acquisition of Greek international Kostas Manolas, erecting quite the central defensive wall alongside Kalidou Koulibaly. Toss in Giovanni Di Lorenzo at right-back and a healthy Faouzi Ghoulam opposite him, and you have balance. However, by the looks of the performance last week which saw 3 goals leak in against an improved, but less than potent, attacking side in Fiorentina, some concern persists heading to Turin. Juventus’ firepower up front weren‘t sharp in the 1-0 win over Parma, but a home opener against a rival could spell danger for Napoli in the back if they aren’t careful as the eight-consecutive title winners look to deliver the Azzurri further heartache in this tie.
Do the Partenopei’s personal experiences with Sarri give them the advantage?
Between the two sides, there is plenty of familiarity. From a Napoli standpoint, there is comfort and confidence in the system and style of play Ancelotti has integrated since his arrival last year, whereas Juventus are still making adjustments from Allegri to Sarri. Each club knows what makes the other tick. But, considering Juventus have won five of their last 6 home matches against Napoli in all competitions, the visitors could use every advantage to reverse their fortunes.
Though in transition, Juventus’ home dominance remains well in play.
The Bianconeri have an impeccable home field advantage, and you can make the argument theirs is the strongest in Europe. Juventus Stadium serves as a fortress for the Italian giants, due in large part to their defensive record over the years with the highly-respected ‘BBC’ and Gianluigi Buffon. Although the elder statesmen are in the twilight of their careers, the overall mentality of the club is not, which means ‘the Old Lady’ likely will remain dominant for the foreseeable future. Juventus are undefeated in their last 21 home matches in Serie A, and can be absolutely ruthless going forward when clicking. No motivation is needed on behalf of Juventus. Napoli must exercise a bit of courage and bravery in a tough environment to win here.
Can Lorenzo Insigne carry Napoli to victory again?
2019/20 is a very important season for Lorenzo Insigne. Entering his first term as captain, the 28-year old local boy is placed with a bit more pressure and responsibility than the others due to his attachment to the city. Last week, however, the Italian asserted himself in the match and turned in a stellar performance, lending credence to an individual fully capable of being Napoli’s talisman. Across all competitions in blue versus Juventus for his career, Insigne has six goal contributions to his name (2 goals, 4 assists via transfermark). Keep a close eye on the diminutive attacker’s positioning early and often as he looks to pad his account and strike while the iron is hot.
Cristiano Ronaldo destined to break free.
The Portuguese international remains at the top of his profession at 34, and with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Scoring 27 goals and tallying 10 across all competitions last season, Ronaldo’s appetite to find the back of the net and leave his mark on any given match is unrivaled, which means he can truly turn it on at any moment – even when it seems he isn’t firing on all cylinders like we saw last week vs Parma. Registering 7 shots on the evening, only 2 were on frame and neither found the back of the net, meaning it’s a tough ask of Napoli to keep him off the scoresheet for the second straight week. Ronaldo will get his chances no matter what, and by virtue of being a star who brings his best for major opponents, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to see the ex-Real Madrid man go off.
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