Juventus are in their usual spot of 1st place in Serie A as they go after an incredible 8th Scudetto in a row, no other team has won Serie A since Milan did so in 2011 and it has been a decade of utter dominance by the Old Lady.
Any team hoping that the good times were going to fizzle out for Juve were greatly let down when they signed Cristiano Ronaldo for 100m euros last summer. Together with an already world class squad Ronaldo has helped them back to the top of the league and is currently the leading goal scorer in his debut season in Italy. Everything is like a dream for Juventus at this moment, and then there is Napoli…..
The team from Naples have not won the league since 1990 when a certain Diego Maradona helped them to the title with his greatness and goals. Those days are long gone, but Napoli of the last 10 years have been a very impressive team. Take for example that they have finished runner up to Juventus in the 2010s on 3 different occasions and have at times really tried to push the Turin club. The problem is that Napoli keep losing the title and are being seen as the pretenders each season.
This one looks like ending the same, but Napoli yet again in 2nd place have not given up hope. Currently they have 52 points and are 11 points behind. They have messed up in recent weeks as they drew against both AC Milan and Fiorentina, but is there a way back for the side?
One way could be that Juventus get tied up in the Champions League. They have only won the competition twice in their history in 1985 and 1996, and have been a runner up 2 times from the last 4 competitions. It is the one trophy they are looking for this season and let’s face it it is the reason they signed Ronaldo in the first place, a player that has just won 3 of what they want in a row. Now could be the time.
So from Napoli’s perspective if Juventus get caught up in the competition inevitably they will focus on it, and should start dropping points. Well that is the theory. Let’s remind ourselves that this Juventus team are still unbeaten and it would take Napoli to win every game remaining of this season to have a chance for the title, that’s winning 15 games in a row.
It isn’t going to happen this season, Napoli have dropped the ball so to speak on too many occasions. But next season could be a real possibility and would also mark 30 years since they last won it.
This round was a little light in terms of big matches, but the most anticipated one, Fiorentina-Napoli, delivered from an entertainment standpoint even though it ended with no goals.
The Viola came into the game having tied in three of the previous four games and looking for a big result that could boost them in the Europa League race, while the Partenopei squashed Sampdoria last week, but had dropped points in the two previous road fixtures against the Milan teams. Continue reading →
The next Serie A round will start very early, on Thursday, and stretch throughout the weekend.
Lazio-Empoli: it was not necessarily pretty, but the Biancocelesti returned to winning ways against Frosinone after three unsatisfactory results and now are in the fifth spot, tied with Roma and Atalanta, one point away from Champions League. The Azzurri came back against Chievo, collecting the second draw in the last three fixtures after a slew of losses, but behind them Bologna have gotten closer. The Biancocelesti are really banged up and, considering the minuscule turnaround, there is growing pessimism about the presence of Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto, who got hurt on Monday. Joaquin Correa should be able to play and in this scenario he and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic become very attractive fantasy assets and Felipe Caicedo could be a cheap plug considering he has scored in the last round. Valon Berisah and Riza Durmisimight be unlikely protagonists. Continue reading →
In a round full of ties, only Napoli and Bologna brought home the full loot and the Partenopei, which rag dolled a worthy opponent, were quite clearly the best team in this week-end. The Azzurri came into the game looking to wash out the bitter taste of an underwhelming two-game trip to San Siro against Milan, where they were held to a nil-nil tie in Serie A play and eliminated from Coppa Italia due to a paltry performance.
Standings implications: Napoli were finally able to cut into Juventus’ lead atop of the standings, since they bludgeoned Sampdoria at home, while the Bianconeri squandered a two-goal lead versus Parma at the Stadium. Roma and Milan tied in a key match-up for the Champions League race and they both got closer to Inter, which dropped the ball at home versus Bologna. However, Atalanta and Lazio both closed the gap with their narrow wins on Monday. SPAL and Torino shared the spoils in what was fittingly the games with most fouls this season, while Empoli and Chievo did the same early on Saturday on a result that does not really help anybody. Ties galore on Sunday, as Genoa-Sassuolo and Udinese-Fiorentina both finished 1-1, slowing down the road teams in their quest for a Europa League berth. Continue reading →
Napoli-Sampdoria: the Partenopei had a disappointing two-game meeting with Milan, as they did not manage to beat them in the weekend and then got got in Coppa Italia. They are undefeated at home, where they have won four games in a row, often scoring multiple goals. The Blucerchiati are coming off a thumping against Udinese, their fourth W in the last six fixtures and they lost only to Juventus since the beginning of December. While Lorenzo Insigne is stuck in a prolonged drought, Arek Milik has done most of the damage for the Azzurri up front, with Dries Mertens chipping in from time to time and some contribution from José Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski, but not in a consistent way. Continue reading →
Sampdoria-Udinese: the Blucerchiati were pipped at the post in Florence last week, in a game that turned on its head a thousand times. They have won three straight at home. After three positive, or semi-positives, results Udinese took a tumble at home against Parma. They have managed to prevail just once on the road thus far. Fabio Quagliarella has found the target in ten straight appearances and is one shy of tying the record, so he is obviously a must-start, considering that the match-up is not that hard. Gaston Ramirez is suspended, so Riccardo Saponara will draw the start and could be worth a look. Even Jakub Jankto showed some life in the last game, but Karol Linetty might be able to return in the midfield. Continue reading →
Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available. Continue reading →
Juventus:Blaise Matuidi and Medhi Benatia missed the last game, but they will be available to play. Federico Bernardeschi has been called up after missing time with a thigh pull. Rodrigo Bentancur is suspended. Juan Cuadrado underwent knee surgery and could be on the shelf for three months.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly were handed two-game bans. Marek Hamsik subbed off against Inter due to a thigh injury and will try to recover for the first game of 2019. Continue reading →
Standings implications: Juventus were pretty lucky to grab a tie against Atalanta, however Napoli got beat by Inter and therefore the Bianconeri’s lead widened, while the Nerrazzuri and the Partenopei are now separated by five points. Both Roman teams looked pretty good in the midweek round as Lazio’s win in Bologna was never in doubt and the Giallorossi routed Sassuolo. Milan were held to a tie in Frosinone, so Sampdoria, which were the first to defeat Domenico Di Carlo’s Chievo, now lead the Europa League race. Torino remain in the mix after they handed a drubbing to Empoli, while Fiorentina laid an egg against Parma. SPAL and Udinese did not hurt each other, while Cagliari returned to winning ways against Genoa.