Napoli and Juventus in title test
Published : 04 Nov 2011 01:46:45
Title pretenders Napoli and Juventus go head to head at Stadio San Paolo this weekend in a clash that could reveal a lot about each side's chances of lifting the Serie A crown at the end of the season.
Juve lead the league by a point from Udinese and Lazio, while Napoli are five points back in fifth.
All four of those sides are considered capable of challenging Milan rivals AC and Inter for success in May, but they are unlikely to all last the pace together, meaning their direct clashes take on extra significance.
Napoli and Juventus are perhaps the two most prepared for a title tilt, having each beaten both Milan rivals already this season.
Added to that, Napoli downed Udinese, but they have proved the more inconsistent of the pair.
As well as a series of impressive victories, they have lost to Catania, Chievo and Parma.
Juventus, on the other hand, are unbeaten this season and also have the added bonus of resting in mid-week when the likes of Napoli and the Milan neighbours compete in the Champions League.
But Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says it is too soon to be playing up the significance of this game.
"Ten games into the season it would seem madness to me to be talking of a title decider because no game this early in the season could be that important," he said.
"It's an important game because it can have so many implications. Many things can change for one team or the other in terms of confidence, conviction and self-esteem. But it definitely isn't a title decider."
One main reason for that is fourth-placed Milan, who are just two points behind Juve and who host Catania on Sunday.
Having had a difficult start to the season, including a 2-0 defeat at Juve, they have since won four in a row in the league.
But they have also been beaten twice, whereas Juve have proved the most consistent team so far.
"We've had a good start without a doubt, but also in the last two years in which we finished seventh, we had great starts that seemed worthy of praise," Buffon told SkySport.
"Then we saw what we did thereafter, and that's why I think we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground.
"I've never said we can win the league. At 33 years old and with the experience I have, I would never make that mistake.
"And that's not false modesty. I think we can be very satisfied that we're competitive, but that's very different to winning the title."
For his part, Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri believes that his team showed in losing 3-2 at Bayern Munich in mid-week that they are capable of giving anyone a match.
"We're still in the running for qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League but to do so we're going to need to play a great match against Manchester (City) at the San Paolo," he said.
"Now we have Juve and we have to think about them. Of course against Bayern we showed that to beat us you always have to show spirit and overcoming us isn't easy for anyone."
Like Milan, Udinese and Lazio also face home games, against Siena and Parma respectively.
Meanwhile, struggling Inter face a daunting trip to Genoa as they bid to convert their European form into league points.
The nerazzurri have one more point in four Champions League games -- where they are four points clear at the top of their group and on the verge of qualification -- than after nine matches in the league, where they are a point and a place off the drop zone.
Inter come into the game on the back of a 2-1 home defeat by Juve and trailing the league leaders by 11 points.
Fixtures (1400GMT unless otherwise stated)
Palermo v Bologna (1700GMT), Novara v Roma (1945GMT)
AC Milan v Catania, Atalanta v Cagliari, Cesena v Lecce, Chievo v Fiorentina, Lazio v Parma, Udinese v Siena, Napoli v Juventus (1945GMT)