Juventus looking to reignite season at Napoli
Juventus will be looking to reignite its season at Napoli on Sunday night after seeing its lead at the top of Serie A cut to just one point.
Massimiliano Allegri’s team has won just one of its past six games in all competitions, a 3-1 league victory at Cagliari and could be leapfrogged by Roma, which hosts Lazio in the capital derby.
”It’s an important round of fixtures but it’s still early,” Juventus captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. ”We are still first, there’s no problem for now. We are happy enough with what we’ve done so far, but we are not satisfied.”
Juventus will also want to exact revenge on Napoli, which won a penalty shootout to lift the Italian Super Cup just before Christmas.
Both Lazio and Napoli need the points to maintain their bid for third spot. They are both three points ahead of Genoa and Sampdoria, which play Inter Milan and Empoli respectively.
Here are some of the things to know about this weekend’s games:
SHAKY AT THE BACK
Much of Juventus’ dip in form has been down to the loss of its invincibility in defense.
Juventus, which didn’t concede a goal in Serie A until October, still has the best record in the league at the back, having let in just eight goals – but four of them have come in the last five games.
Tiredness could be setting in for defensive duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, with the former having played 14 league matches this season and the latter missing just one.
Martin Caceres, who has managed just four appearances this season, has been out injured for three months but was fit enough for the bench in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Inter Milan.
With the season approaching the halfway stage, Roma can leapfrog above Juventus with victory in the city derby on Sunday afternoon ahead of the defending champion’s match at Napoli.
After 17 matches, Roma has 39 points, one less than Juventus.
”Now the great part of the season is starting because the top teams are facing each other,” said Roma defender Davide Astori, who scored in Tuesday’s 1-0 win at Udinese. ”The points become weighty, not decisive but very weighty.
”Sunday we have the chance to move above Juventus. We know that we are a great team. We need results like what could happen Sunday to boost our confidence.”
Midfielder Kevin Strootman was back to his best at Udinese, where he played his first full match since a serious injury last March.
HAMSIK HANDY FOR NAPOLI
Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik is coming into form at the perfect time for Rafa Benitez’s side.
Hamsik had a poor start to the season but was impressive in the Super Cup victory against the defending champion and set up two goals as well as scoring one in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory at Cesena.
”We ended last year by winning the Super Cup and we started this year with a win at Cesena,” Hamsik said. ”This is a nice start, which makes us happy. We’re now thinking about Juventus. It will be an important match, the stadium is already sold out.”
Hamsik has scored six times against Juventus in seven years at Napoli.