Gonzalo Higuain is such a strange character, isn’t he? Il Pipita can be so deadly, but just when people start thinking he is a world beater, he somehow manages to miss an incredible chance and his form suddenly drops. Then, just when the critics are ready to label him as a flop, the Argentinian shows his best side and leaves football experts, as well as probably his Coach and teammates, wondering which Higuain will show up in the next game.
This season is no exception. The ex-Real Madrid striker started the season poorly, but then suddenly exploited and scored crucial goals against Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos in Europe, as well as a fantastic brace against Milan in Serie A. A couple of weeks later the 30-year-old punished his former teammates, as he scored the only goal in Juve’s 1-0 victory against Napoli at the San Paolo.
This amazing run for the powerful Number 9 was followed by a few quite games in which Higuain showed signs of his other side, missing some good chances and looking a bit short on confidence. However, just like he so often does, Pipita bounced back and was simply magnificent in the double-header against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League Round of 16. The Argentinian scored three goals and provided an assist in the two games and proved decisive for Juve’s qualification, despite missing a penalty in the firstleg, which reminded everyone that you just can’t be sure what will happen with him.
In recent weeks, Higuain’s form has dropped once again, as the Juve superstar looked tired and off the pace in some games and his terrible miss against Crotone on Wednesday might worry the Bianconeri faithful right before the critical clash with the Partenopei.The mistakes of the Old Lady against Crotone might become very costly at the end of the campaign, as even if Juve avoid defeat against Napoli, Max Allegri’s men will still have to face Roma and Inter away from home in the remaining rounds.
Napoli fans will undoubtedly hope that their former hero will not show up against their team, as since joining Juventus, they have been one of Higuain’s favorite victims. The striker has scored five goals in five games against his former employers and has become a real nightmare for Pepe Reina and co.
This year however, the air in Naples is different and the tifosi feel that this might be the season in which Maurizio Sarri’s men will end the Juventus domination. Napoli’s incredible comeback against Udinese will undoubtedly boost the team’s confidence and Juve’s slip-up against Crotone surely puts more pressure on the champions. Narrowing the gap with their arch rivals to just four points with just five games until the end of the season gives Napoli a real chance to upset the odds and win the so sought-after Scudetto.
It’s true that Juventus are so strong because they usually perform at their best under pressure, but an uncharacteristically leaky defence, as well as the bitter Champions League exit will definitely play their part on Sunday.
Despite that, Juve have conceded just four Serie A goals in 2018, and all of them came in their last four games. The 3-0 home defeat against Real Madrid also shows that currently the Allianz Juventus Stadium is not the fortress that it used to be, so Napoli will come into the game knowing that they have a real chance of winning.
It’s clear that this Juventus team is very different to previous years, as the Bianconeri’s biggest strength this season has been their ability perform just when nobody is expecting them to. This was the case in the second legs against Tottenham and Real Madrid and this might well prove to be the case against Napoli on Sunday.
Maybe Higuain’s nature is heavily influencing his team this season, or perhaps the multiple injuries, Allegri’s rotation and the constant changes are damaging the team more heavily than in previous terms.
And while Napoli will have the full belief that they can finally end their Juventus hoodo and emerge victorious, deep down everyone in Naples is afraid of the prospect of facing their former star. Because that’s the thing with Higuain, he always finds a way to surprise us and nobody knows which version of Pipita will step on the field on Sunday.