Last year, Napoli were lingering in 3rd position during this same stage of the Serie A season. They’re leading the line this time around, but only by a mere 2 points, which is made to look even more mere by the fact that Juventus is the club that’s sitting just behind them. And that they are the club that Napoli faces next. In Turin.
Of course, when I compromise the situation like that, it seems rather unfair to a club that’s, undoubtedly, been the best in terms of consistency in this league. Some might even consider this Napoli team the most entertaining in the division. Maurizio Sarri certainly wants to think so.
However, they haven’t been the best side as of late as Sarri just stumbled upon the realization that you cannot always attack at a rate of 200% every game week in and week out. If you take out the Inter game, it is the first time in 6 matches that Napoli have failed to score at least 2 goals. And it was against Carpi, the side that’s in a serious contention for relegation.
Juve, on the other hand, haven’t lost a game in 12 matches, as well as keeping clean sheets in the last 7. There couldn’t have been, from a rival’s perspective, a worse time to face the Turin-based club.
Since Sarri’s appointment as Napoli manager, he has amplified the talent that was already residing at this club by bringing an entirely new dimension to the game that they played. It wasn’t about just keeping clean sheets and scoring on the counter like it was under Benitez, but it was about dominating the opposition and creating plays that provided the fans with something to smile about all day long. His task was actually much simpler than some had presumed it to be. It was to just let the attacking minded players, i.e. most of the squad, essentially, attack.
Obviously, the coach and the players were all on the same page and saw the big picture. But, during the last two games, it seemed as if the players were already at the end of the book while Sarri was scampering somewhere in the middle. Napoli started to grind out wins, instead of inserting the sort of dominance and possession football that they usually play. As if, it was already May and there were only two games left to play. Sarri was dumbstruck during his post-match interview after his side’s game with Lazio (which they won 2-0), and voiced his concerns by saying that Napoli ‘have to attack’.
Juventus’s manager, Allegri, saw his problems early on in the campaign when his side seemingly forgot how to win. They’ve already turned the corner, and put 12 straight wins together to jump up to 2nd in the league. They certainly look the side when it comes to discussions about title contenders. At home, they’ve been a symbol of unrivaled prowess and domination.
Juve’s match against Napoli is certainly set up as a box office game, and one that is poised up perfectly to provide the fans with a thriller that will long live in their memory. Sarri will need to get his side to their majestic heights that they enjoyed for the better part of the season if he is to even get a draw in Juve’s fortress. But, we all know that he is certainly capable of doing magic.
This match has the potential to be the best that we’ve watched this calendar year. It is one that you cannot miss. Hint: Expect plenty of goals.