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Juve-Napoli; il Nord v. il Mezzogiorno

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Juventus-Napoli has always been a special fixture, whether in Serie A or Serie B. In a country as divided geographically as Italy, it is a battle of the most successful northern side against the most successful team from Il Mezzogiorno. The fact that Juventus has as many (if not more) tifosi in the South as Napoli only makes the rivalry better. This has always been a fierce game; last season, after a 80minute siege of the Napolitano goal, the Calabrian Cannon himself, Vincenzo Iaquinta, brought the Azzurri down 1-0.

Being Pugliese, of course I cannot stand the Napolitani. It's complex, but the only team mio nonno dislikes more (aside from Lecce) is probably any team from Sicily. But Sicilians don't bother me much. Ahhh, the regionalism. 130 years of unification hasn't changed too much.

I hope every Bianconero has checked Juve's website, particularly if they don't speak Italian. The English section is absolutely fantastic, I think the best of any Serie A club. Grammar isn't always perfect, but who really gives a damn. Here is their post about the game:

All about Juventus-Napoli
Juventus-Napoli: Act 3. After the match in the first round of the Serie A and that in the Coppa Italia, the bianconeri and the partenopei will meet once again on Saturday at the Olimpico. Once again the match will be in the evening just like in the two previous cases. The match is valid for the 7th match day of the second round.

Juventus.com is bringing you some interesting information to follow the match better.

NAPOLI AWAY

Napoli only managed to win 8 points away from home when compared to the 27 won in their stadium. A rather surprising outcome when one considers that in the first 5 matches away from the San Paolo the partenopei had obtained 2 victories (against Bologna and Lazio), two draws (against Roma and Udinese) and only one defeat with an end result of 3-2 against Genoa.

The negative series is 7 matches long in which Lavezzi and friends did not manage to obtain a single point. In six of the matches the dfeat was minimal with the goal difference only being bigger in the match against Atalanta (3-1 in favour of the nerazzurri).

HOW THEY’VE BEEN DOING

In the ninth match day of the championship Napoli was leading the table together with Udiense. The leap to the top had been possible thanks to 3 consecutive wins with the first being against Juventus. The defeat against Milan at the San Siro at the very end of the match was the start to a see-saw period with the azzurri still managing to end 2008 in fifth position, only two points away from the position valid for access to the Champions League preliminaries.

With the beginning of the new year there came also the beginning of a negative period, with exception of the 3 points obtained against Catania. Reja’s team did not manage to win again in the following matches registering 2 draws and 5 defeats which see them 8 points away from the UEFA zone.

JUVENTUS-NAPOLI IN FEBRUARY

Statistics with regards to matches played between the two teams in Turin during the month of February are in favour of the bianconeri, this with the exception of the first encounter back in 1941 when Juventus and Napoli shared the spoils in 0-0 draw. The following occasions saw the home team have the better. The largest score was registered in 1974 when Juventus won 4-1 thanks two goals each by Fabio Capello and Pietro Anastasi. There are then to 1-0 victories in two seasons during which Juventus won the championship: the first thanks to a goal scored by Roberto Boninsegna three minutes after kick-off in 1978 and the second had Fabrizio Ravanelli as protagonist in 1995 complete with the masked man celebration. Finally there is the 3-0 victory on the 11th of February 2001 with Napoli already resigned to relegation. The scorers that day were Darko Kovacevic, Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero who scored an easy goal after goalkeeper Fontana dropped the ball in what was a bad mistake.

UNGRATEFUL HEART

1974-75: Juventus-Napoli is played 6 days from the end of the championship with the bianconeri at the top of the table and the campani two points behind. The match is decisive for the final victory of the championship. After the goals by Causio and Juliano, a former Napoli forward, the Brazilian José Altafini is the man to score in the final 2 minutes of the match. The Napoli supporters nick-named their former idol “core n’grato” (ungrateful heart) not able to forgive him such an important exploit. Curiosuly enough, in the following championship, it is once a former Napoli player – and who will return to Napoli later on – to equalise after the advantage score by Savoldi: the goal by Oscar Damiani paved the road to success for Juventus and again it was scored during injury time thanks to Sergio Gori.

Form:

Juventus- Mixed. We've been on an inconsistent Russian Mountain (ha) in Serie A. We beat Palermo last week in a game that flattered us, certainly. Followed by a draw, a another scrappy win, the loss to Cagliari and Udinese, and then our lucky win over Fiorentina. It's been odd. Some of the games we've won (Catania) we haven't particularly deserved, then again against Sampdoria we certainly deserved the 3 points, striking the crossbar and post an ungodly amount. Then, of course, there was that little game this week we unluckily lost 1-0....

Napoli- Disastrous. Frankly, it's shocking. Earlier in the season, Udinese and Napoli were at the top of the table. The other Bianconeri had a serious slide, but have gotten out of it. The Azzurri have not. They have lost to Genoa, Palermo, Fiorentina, and Roma recently and have not won in ages, it seems. They have been in a free fall down the table, currently in 10th. I have no idea what or who is responsible for Napoli's implosion, they faded a bit last season but finished in a good position. This season they were talking Champion's League football, but they are going to have to battle to get into the Uefa Cup Europa League. (is it just me or is the name corny?) The Offside's Napoli blogger Neil (a good guy, despite being a Napoli fan) blames Reja. No doubt he deserves a large chunk of the blame, but I think he's a capable coach and like Delio Rossi last year, it's a combination of coaching errors but something else. I don't know what, to be honest.

Formations and lineups:

Juventus- 4-4-2, of course. It'll be interesting to see who/if Ranieri decides to rest. I'm personally hoping for this-
Buffon; Grygera, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro; Marchionni, Tiago, Marchisio, Giovinco; Iaquinta, Trezeguet

Ranieri may decide to play Amauri and/or ADP up front instead. Claudio is a big fan of Sissoko, so he will likely take either Tiago or Marchisio's spot in center mid. I hope to God after Nedved's cry for help that Ranieri decides to start Giovinco at left-wing. I think De Ceglie is more apt to the position, but obviously he's injured and Giovinco is certainly capable of manning the wing. Mellberg may get the nod in defense to rotate/replace Grygera or maybe in the center alongside Chiellini.
Injured- Andrade, Zebina(?), Camoranesi, De Ceglie, C. Zanetti

Napoli- Reja loves the 3-5-2 like Ranieri loves 4-4-2. (the formation, not the magazine) Your best bet, of course, is to visit the Napoli Offside. Here is Channel4's prediction.
Navarro; Santacroce, Cannavaro, Contini; Maggio, Blasi, Gargano, Hamsik, Datolo; Denis, Lavezzi

I'll be honest and say I have no idea who Datolo is. Other websites suggest Vitale will take that spot. Your idea is as good as mine.

Things/People to Watch:

Juventus Ranieri v. Chelsea Ranieri- Nothing to do with the midweek game. Can you please start tinkering/rotating?!

Maradona's heir #25 v. Juve's defense- I would assume Legro would mark Denis and Chiellini, Lavezzi. But everyone's responsible back there. Our defense has looked mediocre recently. So has Lavezzi. Bet on Keyser Giorgio to have a solid game after an indifferent midweek spell.

Nedved's heir #25- He isn't ceco, but who wouldn't want Hamsik on their taem?

Marchionni as Camo's heir?- Marco's been uninjured and has had some good games this season. He has also had some terrible ones. As I said int he last post, injuries and age may be catching up to Camo. If Marchionni wants a starting shirt, it's time for him to stake his clame.

David Trezeguet- Quando gioca, sempre segna Trezegol.

Juventus Primavera- There will be a nice celebration for the lads for winning the Viareggio Cup. Cobolli will give the trophy to Castiglia (the captain) and the award for Capocannoniere to Daud. Highlights of the tourney will be played for the crowd. Good stuff. Monday, the piccoli gobbi will play against Sampdoria again, in a battle of the top of the table.

Zebina's return- Because he's playing with the Primavera on Monday. Where, aside from his receding hairline, he belongs. Even better stu stuff.

Prediction:

With Rioma hopefully helping us out a bit (we did for you last year, jackasses) this weekend, this is a must win. Napoli will be fired up to play Juve, but their recent form is absolutely dreadful and anything less than the full 3 points would be an utter disapppointment. I frankly couldn't care about the performance right now. Just win. A couple of goals would be nice.

As always....forza Juve!!