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Serie A: Can Napoli Turn Back the Clock?

Napoli vs Juventus

What’s happened to Napoli? For the past four seasons the Azzurri has been the team to push Juventus the furthest, but this time they are already out of sight.

After just one win in the last 12 league fixtures Gennaro Gattuso’s team isn’t even in the top half of the table. They sit in 11th place and two points behind Hellas Verona in tenth, while only two ahead of Sassuolo in 15th. That would have been inconceivable at the start of the season.

Meanwhile, the Old Lady of Turin has signalled her clear intention to take a record ninth successive Scudetto, moving four points clear of Inter Milan at the top of Serie A. Juve and Inter have been neck and neck throughout the first half of the season, but arguably Lazio now poses a bigger threat, six points behind but with a game in hand.

The latest Serie A 2020 still marginally favour Inter as the main challenger, but Lazio are dropping rapidly while Juve remains at around 1.40 to win the title yet again.

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio has a monumental battle this weekend in the Rome derby, while Inter have a tough test at home to Cagliari, this season’s surprise package in sixth place.

Back in San Paolo, Napoli will need a rapid and spectacular turn around in form to take something away from Juve on Sunday night. They have lost the last three in the league and now must turn the clock back 12 months!

Talking Points

CR7 is back on song

Ten minutes was all it took for I Bianconeri to take the game away from their hosts in a recent visit to Roma. A Demiral opener and a Ronaldo penalty saw Juventus grab a two goal lead to give their hosts an insurmountable climb.

Defending Serie A champions Juventus will look to maintain their spot at the top as face Napoli
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 6 goals in Serie A since the start of 2020

Ronaldo is back to his best. He has scored 11 goals in the last seven appearances, in all competitions, and only Lazio’s Ciro Immobile has scored more than Ronaldo’s 16 league goals for the season.

CR7 will line up alongside former Napoli favourite Gonzalo Higuain. He scored 71 goals in 104 appearances in his three year stint at the San Paulo before his switch to Turin, but he’s sure to get a hostile reception on his return to Naples.

Azzurri’s defensive worries

Napoli’s defence has been all too easy to breach in recent times, conceding six goals in the last three games, all defeats. The Azzurri have struggled badly at the back since the injury to Kalidou Koulibaly and he will be absent again against I Bianconeri’s rapier like attack.

There was some encouragement for Napoli fans in their team’s gutsy 1-0 win over Lazio in the Coppa Italia this week, and they will hope to see similar resilience on Sunday.

Insigne needs to shine

The Azzurri needs a pretty spectacular set of Serie A 2020 results between now and the end of the season to make a run on the European places, and a lot rests on the shoulders of Lorenzo Insigne, who has struggled to find his best form. He’s only scored three goals from 19 games and he’s capable of many more, bagging ten last season and 18 in 2016/17.

Insigne has made four assists, but the departure of Marek Hamsik and injury to Dries Mertens means he needs to create and score more to lift his team out of the doldrums.

Merten’s injury means top scorer Arek Milik will start up front.

History

Juve have won over half of the last 47 meetings between these two famous old sides, with 25 victories to the Azzurri’s 12 and there have been ten stalemates.

On the second weekend of this season I Bianconeri won a seven goal thriller, and that made it three in a row against Napoli. But they bagged the win in the most bizarre of circumstances. 3-0 down with lest than half an hour remaining, Napoli battled back to 3-3 but then, two minutes into stoppage time, Koulibaly, under no pressure at all, sliced a clearance into the top corner of his own net for an early candidate for ‘Goal of the Season’!

The pre-match SBOTOP give the hosts a chance, but with Juve’s away record of seven wins, two draws and one defeat, and a current winning run of five I’m backing the Old Lady.

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