- Serie A Betting Preview: Juventus vs. Napoli – Visitors’ last chance as Old Lady close in on title
Serie A Betting Preview: Juventus vs. Napoli – Visitors’ last chance as Old Lady close in on title
Juventus could take a huge step towards confirming their seventh Serie A title in a row when second-placed Napoli head north to the Allianz Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Old Lady have finished top of the table in every campaign in Italy since 2012 but appeared to have met their match this season, with Maurizio Sarri’s side mirroring their brilliance every step of the way up until recently. Back in October, Ciro Immobile struck twice as Lazio came from behind to win 2-1 in Turin. At that point, Napoli were five points clear at the summit having ground out another impressive win, this time by a single goal at Roma.
The Partenopei were becoming everyone’s favourite second team. Not only were they challenging the monopoly that Juve have had on Serie A for years, but they were doing so with some real style. Sarri’s brave, attractive, one-touch football won plaudits around the globe with pundits and analysts admiring the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Jorginho and Allan. Had the Old Lady’s grip on Italy’s top prize finally loosened?
But while a resurgent Juventus went on to take 46 points from the last 48 available in the league – only failing to break down a relegation-threatened but stubborn SPAL last month – Napoli have stuttered, winning just two of their last six matches and dropping six points behind their rivals in the race for top spot.
In the latest of those games last Sunday, the Neapolitans had to be satisfied with a point in the San Siro after a magnificent last-gasp, point-blank save from Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma. He denied frontman Arkadisuz Milik what would have been a vital strike, with Juve simulataneously cruising past Sampdoria in Turin, as the young goalkeeper dived to his left and palmed the ball wide.
Now, Napoli’s task is huge and crystal clear. They must beat Udineseon Wednesday evening first, but Sarri and his team now know that one thing is now certain: to have any remote chance of bridging the six-point gap and winning the title, they must also do something which only Lazio have done domestically in the last three years – beat Juventus on their own patch in Serie A.
Even so, despite the understanding that only three points will do, it has to be said that Napoli’s form, contrasted with that of Juventus, points towards the likelihood of a home victory which would, in anticlimactic manner, all but end the title race. Sunday’s visitors have prevailed over the Old Lady just once since 2014 with Massimiliano Allegri’s men winning three of the last four clashes by one goal. UniBet are offering generous odds of 11/10 on Juventus picking up three more points, with a one-goal Juve victory at odds of around 11/4.
Ex-Napoli hitman Gonzalo Higuain has been a consistent stabbing pain in the side of his former employers since making the switch to Juventus in 2016. The Argentinean forward has netted five times against Sarri’s men in consequent matches and the Neapolitan faithful will be fearing the worst once again this weekend.
However, if he is to add to that tally, he will need to regain his place in the starting line-up. Mario Mandzukic has been the preferred partner for Paulo Dybala in the last couple of Serie A matches, opening the scoring against Sampdoria on Sunday. But Higuain scored in the reverse fixture between these teams and has 15 goals compared to Mandzukic’s five this season. The temptation to start him will likely be too much of a pull for Allegri, especially with Champions League ambitions no longer a consideration after the gut-wrenching 4-3 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals last week. Higuain can be backed at 16/5 to score first and 11/10 to score at any time over 90 minutes.
Juventus will also be motivated to get the championship done and dusted as quickly as possible. Their run-in is not the simplest; Milan still need to visit the Allianz, while tricky trips to Roma and Inter are also in the schedule. Napoli have a much kinder itinerary, with an away game at Europa League-chasing Fiorentina being their most challenging encounter.
But Napoli won’t lie down. Interestingly, they have conceded just once in their last eight away matches in all competitions, shutting out the likes of Milan, Inter and Red Bull Leipzig. Raul Albiol and Kalidou Koulibaly have established a solid partnership in the backline and that will need to be at its best again this weekend when faced with Serie A’s top scorers. The visitors are at 5/1 to win to nil or 29/10 to keep a clean sheet. Napoli will have to come and attack in Turin but we aren’t predicting they’ll be able to produce what will have to be the perfect performance. We’re going for another narrow win for the Old Lady.
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