Title-chasing Napoli take aim at unbeaten Juve
Published : 20 Oct 2012 07:47:55
Napoli will put their Serie A title credentials on the line Saturday in a top-of-the-table clash against Juventus that is reviving memories of Diego Maradona's fairytale spell at the club.
Napoli have not won the championship since 1990, three years after Maradona's goals helped the Partenopei to an historic first of two league titles in 1987.
And as Walter Mazzarri's side prepare for the mouthwatering clash at Juventus Stadium, the Old Lady of Turin boasts a league record 28 titles and an unbeaten streak extending to 45 games.
Napoli, however, have plenty going in their favour.
Mazzarri's side are playing attractive, attacking football that has left their Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani top of the league scoring charts on six goals and they are the only other unbeaten team in the table.
Although still early in the campaign the game -- historically regarded as a battle between the rich northerners and poor southerners -- has dominated headlines for two weeks, relegating Italy's ongoing World Cup campaign to the inside pages.
On fans' forums memories of Napoli's 3-1 win over Juventus in November 1986, six months before Maradona led them to an historic title triumph, have been evoked.
Napoli are also the only team since May 2011, when Juve's unbeaten run began, to beat the Turin side in a 2-0 Italian Cup victory.
On paper both sides will be aiming for nothing less than three points. A draw would do neither any favours and give hope to Lazio and Inter Milan, who sit third and fourth respectively at four points adrift.
Mazzarri said Napoli were confident "because we can put any team in difficulty" but played the diplomat in denying Juve had so far been given an easy ride.
"Not even the European champions Chelsea beat Juve," he said in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper referring to Juve's 2-2 Champions League draw at Stamford Bridge.
"No, they are really strong."
While Juventus usually count on several national team regulars, caretaker coach Massimo Carrera, standing in for the still suspended Antonio Conte, is not worry-free.
Keeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon remains a doubt with the left adductor muscle injury which forced him out of Italy's 3-1 win over Denmark on Tuesday.
And while midfielder Andrea Pirlo will be ready to play his usual orchestrating role ahead of a three-man 'Azzurri' defence of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, Carrera may have to send out a makeshift attacking pair.
Mirko Vucinic returned from international duty with a cold, meaning Fabio Quagliarella could get to start against his former and hometown club.
"We know we'll come up against a team that can cause problems for us during the game. This is why we?ll need to pay attention all the way through until the end," he told Sky Italia.
In a rare Saturday treat for fans third-placed Lazio host an AC Milan side which is trying to regain respectability after a disastrous start to the season.
While Vladimir Petkovic's capital side have five wins in seven games Milan sit mid-table with two wins and four defeats.
Milan lost the derby to Inter last time out, but CEO Adriano Galliani has denied the game will be make-or-break for embattled coach Massimiliano Allegri.
"Allegri's last game for the club won't be against Lazio in Rome or against Malaga (in the Champions League), or against Genoa at the San Siro," Allegri said.
"The club will continue with the coach that has put the most points on the table in Italian football for the past two-and-a-half years.
"Inter ended last season with 22 points less than Milan and no one mentions that. The same is true for Juventus two seasons ago."
Fixtures (times GMT)
Juventus v Napoli (1600), Lazio v Milan (1845)
Cagliari v Bologna (1030), Chievo-Fiorentina, Inter Milan v Catania, Palermo v Torino, Parma v Sampdoria, Udinese v Pescara, Atalanta v Siena (all 1300), Genoa v Roma (1845)