Thursday November 30 2017
Napoli buzzing for Juve visit

The mood in Naples ahead of Friday's Juventus visit is one of excitement, tension, anticipation and above all hope, writes Emmet Gates.

Traverse down the very narrow - and at times suffocating - old historic center of Naples, called Spaccanapoli, and you will find locals selling just about everything imaginable. Street vendors howl prices of their goods in Neapolitan slang to amused tourists. At this time of the year, Christmas dominates the stalls. Items ranging from religious cribs to figurines of Christ and Diego Maradona adorn shops and stands throughout the area.

You can also find gimmicked toilet paper with the Juventus logo, or any number of Bianconeri players, dotted throughout Spaccanapoli. In more recent times, special affection has been given to Gonzalo Higuain, with ‘Higuain the traitor’ signs on display. That former favourite son of the city that left Naples for Turin some 18 months ago.

Venture into the Quarteri Spagnoli area of the city and you will find much of the same. Anti-Juventus banners amidst the famous mural of Maradona, one banner promptly telling anyone who is of Neapolitan origin that has the audacity to support The Old Lady to leave the area.

The city’s hatred for Juventus is hardly news. The north-south divide in Italy is perhaps no better personified than in the rivalry between Juve and Napoli. The downtrodden and under-developed south battling it out against the aristocratic and powerful north. Yet this season it feels different, for the first time arguably since the days of Maradona, Napoli are on equal footing with the Bianconeri, if not better.

Maurizio Sarri’s men have won the hearts of neutrals across the globe with their intoxicating style of football, with Pep Guardiola leading the charge. Earlier this month, the Man City boss claimed he ‘was in love’ with Napoli following their two brilliant clashes in the Champions League, describing them as “perhaps the best side I’ve ever faced in my career.”

Aesthetics aside, Napoli this season has shown maturity and a mentality that in recent years, especially in the Benitez and Mazzarri eras, that was sorely lacking. They now possess the know-how required to win games even when they’re not at their scintillating best, the ability to grind out results that are the making of champions.

They’ve struggled in games immediately after playing in Europe. Their style of play and lack of squad depth has been conducive to some flat performances. However, they came away from fixtures against Benevento, Cagliari, Inter, Chievo and Udinese with 11 points, and most importantly, no goals conceded.

Napoli has never had a start like this to a season in their history. They have the best defence in the league, the best goal difference (alongside Juve), and no side has collected points at this rate since Fabio Capello’s dour Juventus side of 2005-06.

Friday night’s fixture between the two is eagerly anticipated, so much so that Neapolitans requested en masse that Sky Italia reschedule the timing of this week’s Gomorrah episode, so that they don’t miss out on seeing both Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro di Marzio in action. But Sarri is keenly aware that the game won’t be decisive, there’s simply too much of the season left to play out.

The mood in Naples has never been more optimistic. Juventus, much like in the previous two years, are still trying to work out their best starting XI. You get the sense that, just like in the past two years, that eventually Max Allegri will click all the parts into place, like a very expensively assembled jigsaw puzzle.

In the meantime, Napoli need to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding La Vecchia Signora, as a win on Friday would see the gap widen to seven points. Past seasons would’ve seen Juve chase down and overtake that difference with considerable ease, but this Napoli feels different. They believe this is their season, their time to secure their first league title in 28 years.

A victory tomorrow, whilst not quite giving them one hand on the scudetto, would give them a psychological one over their most loathed rivals. 

Have your say...
@annoymous - your grammar very, very uneducated and stupid hahahahahahaha!
on the 3rd December, 2017 at 9:31pm
Hahhahahahah at least koulibaly had the nuts to play against us amd not intemtionally elbow a person to cower in fear of an even worse beat down. Props to you kouliballsy. A real man haaaahahahhahabahahahahah
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 1:20am
Hahahaahha i dont know who to laugh at more? Napoli or flopnucci. Hahahaa Napoli your team is lame, your fans are childish stupid morons. Also your president is a qualified idiot. Dont worry you will have over 60 troohies soon, only you will be dead and yor childrens children by that time. Keep putting juve players in coffins you weirdos. Stramge and deluded bunch the lot of you are. Also very very uneducated and stupid. 
on the 2nd December, 2017 at 1:18am
Good football is not taking shots from outside the area hoping for a miracle. Napoli had one real chance all game. All that possession for nothing.

See you in May Napoletani. ;)
on the 1st December, 2017 at 11:41pm
90 minutes later and it's the same Napoli as before. Touch overhyped, maybe?
Hard to argue with Allegri's approach, since injuries are a worry and crucial midweek fixture up next. We played 15 minutes, got the goal, and closed shop.

Napoli's attack was always good, but not imaginative by any stretch. The world may have started noticing them but Italy already know them. Perhaps they should've spent in the summer.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 10:57pm
What fugly game this was! I think I fell asleep on more than a few occasion. An important win from Juve but the overall football has been outrageously poor. It was tortuous game for anybody who watches it.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 10:47pm
My moneys on Napoli for this one.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 5:41pm

It's a fickle matter made worse with key players leaving each summer (and Buffon retiring next which will have a massive effect). Whoever eventually succeeds Allegri needs to display that level of flexibility IMO.

Higuain seems likely to start, and tbh I'm not happy about it. At least have him return for Olympiakos instead. With CL qualification on the line, I doubt Sporting will beat Barca but this can't be left for chance.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 2:29pm
"Juventus, much like in the previous two years, are still trying to work out their best starting XI"

Very true, sadly.

On the other hand, Allegri had many new signings that needed to be integrated into the team.

It's a gift, and a curse.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 7:30am
I was hoping to see Pjanic w/Matuidi(or Marchisio) in the midfield, but Khedira is starting again. The match has plenty of capable players who can score, but I think the midfield will be the key to the match, and Allan/jorginho could give Khedira problems. Matuidi would offer more grinta. Mandzukic was a big loss, but I still have Juventus winning
3 or 4-2. If the same Juventus team Sampdoria show up, it will be 5-1 Napoli.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 5:23am
@ jimmy . Thank you at least one person on here does not have the mind of a 5yr old.
on the 1st December, 2017 at 2:12am
Stop with this cheating bit. The 2006 squad that cheated had 8 players in the 2006 World Cup final. (Del Piero, Trezeguet, Vieira, Camoranesi, Zambrotta, Thuram, Cannavaro, Buffon) Did France and Italy cheat to get to that final too?
on the 30th November, 2017 at 9:23pm
With the current injury list, it seems our best formation will be to mirror Napoli's 4-3-3, with Dybala as the striker. I'm guessing we'll still go for 3 CBs, which is understandable but there's always fear that the midfield will be overrun.

It's the result that always matters most, so I want Allegri make his team perform like they did the last 2 matches, and finer details can be discussed afterwards.
on the 30th November, 2017 at 9:10pm
@pino if you think jiventus are the only club that cheats in italian football you are either very young or just very stupid. Maybe a bit of both.
on the 30th November, 2017 at 8:27pm
@ Pino, even if you wipe out all of the scudetto won prior to calcipoli, we still in this current run of scudetto's, we have 3x's as many championships as Napoli. So in conclusion, Kiss the rings & enjoy Juve winning there 7th in a row in 2018!
Forza Juve
on the 30th November, 2017 at 8:04pm
@Max: Yeah, it sure is tough to win trophies - so much so that Juve had to stoop to buying them.

Keep on cheating, juventini.
on the 30th November, 2017 at 6:02pm
Napoli can hope all they want, in the end they'll finish where they belong, 2nd - behind Juventus.

This way the club and their sore fans can keep on moaning, blaming ref's, var, the schedule and everything else...except for their own failures of course.

But hey, at least they play beautiful football right? Who cares about winning trophies anyway.
on the 30th November, 2017 at 3:46pm
Neapolitan slang? whilst I am sure you do not wish to offend, but Neapolitan is an officially recognized language.
on the 30th November, 2017 at 1:27pm

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.