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Friday December 1 2017
Same old Napoli-Juventus

There were plenty of surprises as Napoli and Juve met on Friday but, explains Adam Digby, the more the Old Lady changes, the more she stays the same.

Napoli have made no secret of their title ambitions, players happily discussing the pre-season “Scudetto Pact” that kept their squad intact this past summer. Making an unwritten agreement that they would stay together for at least another year, their sole aim was to try clinch the Serie A crown for the first time since Diego Maradona graced the Stadio San Paolo.

They always knew that it would be Juventus who stood in their way. Along with Inter, Roma and Lazio, the Partenopei had captured attention after making a good start to 2017-18, once again playing the sumptuous football demanded by Maurizio Sarri. Yet if it was predictable that it would be the Old Lady who presented their toughest challenge, it was also obvious what to expect from Napoli when the Bianconeri headed south for Friday night’s head-to-head clash.

Lining up in Sarri’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, it was the same starting XI as always and the same approach to the game. Not so for the visitors. Juve not only sprang a surprise with a previously unused 4-3-2-1 framework, but also with some of the names on the team sheet as Medhi Benatia, Kwadwo Asamoah and Mattia De Sciglio took to the field from the first whistle.

And while there had been talk of him missing the match after surgery on his hand, there was never really a doubt that Gonzalo Higuain would join them. Following his €90m transfer 18 months ago, last season’s return to his former home saw him become almost the sole focus of the pre-match hype, yet his broken finger ensured the Argentinian’s visit was barely discussed.

That did not stop the Napoli faithful from booing him mercilessly before the game got underway, but where last term he looked under pressure, this time he beckoned them to do their worst. Seemingly reveling in the jeering, it was inevitable that it would be Higuain who broke the deadlock, smashing Paulo Dybala’s pass beyond Pepe Reina after just 13 minutes.

What happened from there was a combination of Allegri’s diligent planning, some excellent individual performances and perhaps a little bit of luck. While his formation was originally something of a Carlo Ancelotti-esque Christmas tree, when Juve lost possession it very quickly became two old-fashioned banks of four.

Blaise Matuidi shuttled out wide on the left and Douglas Costa did the same on the opposite flank, the latter doing well to deny Mario Rui on a number of occasions. But perhaps the biggest factor was Dybala’s diligent tracking of Jorginho, the Juve man limiting the impact of the midfielder who truly makes Napoli tick.

With Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik missing their usual spark, the Bianconeri managed to keep a clean sheet away to Napoli for the first time since March 1997, despite some sloppy passing from the visitors in the second half.

They will need to be much better if they are to push on and win a seventh consecutive league title, and when Inter visit Turin next weekend, their quality will be tested once again. For now however, they can celebrate a famous win under difficult circumstances, while their opponents are left wondering what might have been.

The more things change, the more they stay the same for Napoli and Juventus.

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Have your say...
In any decent and respected league, arrogant "IDiOTS, like Sarri get sacked immediately, but...he stays, and Napoli wastes another season full of hopes, if he countinues as coach, Napoli will finish in mid table, I hate Sarri, and above all ADL, for screwing up at least 6 years of hope, Mazzarri has understood this and left.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 9:42pm
ADL knows nothing about football, Napoli for him is part of his business PR, he does not give a damn about the club, he has no interest in winning anything, he is there to prevent Napoli from winning anything, not to upset his Masters from Turin. Poor Napoli tifosi have again been betrayed, after Ferlaino the Mafioso, now we have ADL the illusionist. Sarri is the useful idiot,fundamentalist who beleives firlmy in his stupidity, and life goes on.
on the 4th December, 2017 at 6:15pm
Napoli will never amount to anything more than an outperforming provincial club, as long as ADL spends money like a provincial club.
on the 4th December, 2017 at 5:04pm
If you think having more of the ball means you deserve to win a match your the only one looking stupid around here. Also nobody cares if you went to the game. Anyways doesnt take away from the fact napoli fans are the dumbest in football and their team is still crap and will always be remembered as crap.
on the 4th December, 2017 at 12:58pm
@annonymous1 - you know nothing. I was at the match @ S Paolo - 70%-30% Napoli dominance perhaps should have resulted in a Napoli win. If you can't contribute in a mature way then perhaps you shouldn't bother; you're only making a fool of yourself.
on the 4th December, 2017 at 12:38am
Dominance hahahah what an idiot . There is a reason why juve won six trophies you idiot.
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 10:04pm
If if if ammmm they lost because they are losers. If it hadnt been for buffon, if it hadnt been for reina. Who cares they lost now shut up and accept napoli is a small team and even if they won serie a they will still be a small team with loser players a loser president and the worse fans in the world.
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 10:01pm
A shame Napoli's dominance 70-30 didn't result in the win - Napoli weren't great but when Juventus have 10 men behind the ball it's difficult. If it hadn't been for Buffon, then 2-1 to Napoli perhaps...
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 8:25pm
Oh, right. The last Italian team to win CL was Mourinho's Inter. On the English side there's Di Matteo's Chelsea. Simeone's Atletico also came close twice with a fine margin (+officiating) separating them from Real.

Even making the ridiculous case that only attack wins CLs, it did so for only 3 elite clubs recently. Juventus are not the same, financially or otherwise. If it's highest winning chance, it's defense. If it's the best for the team, only Allegri can find the correct balance.
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 11:32am
Too many of the complaints are pedantic, and the problem is it somehow reaches the players anyway who put immense efforts to entertain us. They make mistakes, just like the coach and anyone else, but there should be proper fan etiquette. This level of disrespect is far too much for my liking, and if that's the road you chose for yourself then fine.

I want CL glory too, especially for G1G1, but >20 years without a final win makes trickier than "look at X" and copying.
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 8:22am
@mnm
And a season lasts 38 matchweeks w/o counting CI or CL. Injuries, player fatigue, form and other competitions have to be factored in when considering the 90 minutes of game time.

Sarri's approach to ignore pacing always burns out his players, even admitting to fatigue himself post match. What's especially funny to me is that he complained about 90m Higuain, either forgetting it went to HIS club or is sniping at De Laurentis.
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 8:14am
If it wasn't for Reina it would have finished 3-0, and you wouldn't have anything to complain about. Juve were fine laast night. Not stellar, but fine.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 6:13pm
That's so funny! Since the start of the season Juve has been more attack minded and people were criticizing them because they were not solid, conceding a lot of goals and not defending well in general.

Yesterday we witnessed the art of defense once again in a way only Juve can deliver. It reminded us of the Juve we are used to watching. The same Juve that has succeeded in Europe the last years.

And now people are complaining because Juve is not attacking much, LOL! Just switch it to tennis...
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 5:27pm
Yes Juve won but it is only one game and the first Napoli have lost in 9 months! There is still a long way to go and Napoli are still in first place! Juve still have to play Inter and Roma yet!
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 3:41pm
If people can't appreciate a good defensive performance then you are watching the wrong sport try AFL (no goalkeepers). Yes Juve have a lot things to sort out that they should have been addressed by this stage of the season but haven't they broken records in the goal scoring department?
p.s please don't respond to trolls like Theo, ignore them!
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 2:12pm
@Theo: 'You'd have to be a complete fool to comment on a post about a "dead league." Why anyone would comment on a "boring, corrupt, crumbling corpse" is beyond me! Such better football in "places I don't watch" these days. And it shows, you know, because I managed to get "pathetic" and "humiliating" in the same sentence.'
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 1:12pm
@j86 The last time I checked a game last for 90mins+extra time. Anybody who came up with a game plan to sit deep and defend 90% of the time and loses possession in less than 10 sec should be immediately crucified. I'm not going to go over the board, but you can bet I'm angry that I can bend a crow bar with my bare hands. Although I do not see anything special of this Napoli side since the very beginning, it is still the most anticipated game this season yet, and all we're served with is this..
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 1:02pm
Juve style of play in this game summed up the lack of success of any Italian clubs and the national team on the European or world stage lately pretty well. Yes they were effective tactically but with so negative mentality. I expect a lot more from a team who has won 6 scudetti in a row.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 12:12pm
England qualified World Cup and Euro simply because they always got garbage teams in their group.They always failed to qualify or knock out stages where they failed against good teams.England is a team only will win World Cup and Euro against when no countries complete for World Cup and Euro.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 11:45am
We'll never win the UCL parking the bus like this but yes for the league it's fine. Lets not let this 1 win make us forget the absolutely shocking performances we've seen in Europe so far this season. Allegri needs to start doing a hell of a lot more in both Serie A and the UCL. WE NEED TO GET USED TO ACTUALLY ATTACKING because playing like this vs a top European side ends the same way Cardiff did. Hard to get excited about beating a team we've beaten to the title for the past 6 years in a row
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 11:34am
great analysis, dybala really doing well to keep pressure to jorginho, really exciting to see serie a this season
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 11:28am
I was hoping that Napoli would prove me wrong, but I knew that this would happen. Napoli fall short when playing against the top teams (they were fortunate against Roma & Lazio). Despite playing attractive football, Napoli are extremely predictable. They are also useless at maximizing their own corners, and Sarri clearly does not have an effective plan B. And what's happened to Hamsik? I haven't seen a great performance from him for quite some time.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 11:09am
I love these types of wins. No nonsense, efficient and economical. Just consider the circumstances: Injuries, lack of form, media frenzy, everyone rooting for the opposition, Napoli fans thumping their chests like Tarzan demanding a win -- only for Allegri to teach Napoli a tactical lesson in how to win a game of football. I loved the way Higuain silenced the vociferous away support. You could see the tears flooding the top tier of the stands. The mother of all physiological blows.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 10:51am
If Juve win the league again this year they should scrap Serie A.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 10:47am
@juveman, fully agree. What Juve should aim for is European domination not escaping with a narrow victory against Napol. U never see Barca, Real, Bayern defending with 10 in the back. No matter the opponent.

Hopefully this part of Allegri’s plan to instill some solidity before making the offensive engine work. The talent is there!
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 10:42am
I have to say even though we won which was crucial this game especially the second half was mind numbingly boring. Juve defending with 10 men and Napoli doing nothing. For juve taking that approach against Napoli with only 1 goal up was a bit crazy. Especially when you consider in reality we had the much better chances.its time to start taking it to the opposition no matter the team.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 10:00am
i wonder why some people dont know how to keep their feelings to themselves, its a boring league but with great record and awesome history and we appreciate that.

FORZA JUVE ! FORZA SERIEA !! FORZA ITALIA !!!
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 9:31am
@mnm
That was Allegri's gameplan after the goal. For the 1st 15 minutes, it was Juve who dominated. But whatever, you don't like this win.

Ignoring words of a few, this was a great victory and another much needed clean sheet. Although I want more Rugani game time, I'm glad Benatia is performing better. Now, it's on Khedira (still did well yesterday IMO) and Sandro to step up. On to Olympiakos!

Forza Juve
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 8:58am
I thought Juve would loose this one, they've played beyond pair this season, and Napoli was playing at home and I thought they will be motivated more, but they basically lost because their tactics is too rigid and they aren't able to transform.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 8:53am
It's a game where both teams show their constant incapability when up against what should be a strong opposition. Napoli attacking play is unable to convert. Whereas Juve is unable to keep the ball in possession for more than 10 seconds and get out from their own half.
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 6:17am

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