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Juventus vs. Napoli Preview: Round 6 — Big game, big improvements?

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When Max Allegri called for "swift improvement" after the 1-1 draw against Frosinone on Wednesday in Turin, he didn't mean for his squad to just sit around and feel sorry for themselves. As much as he's preached patience to begin the season for a variety of reasons, Allegri also understands what the current situation is. Heck, all of us understand what the current situation is.

Napoli vs. Juventus:Saturday, September 26 20:45 CET, 2:45 p.m. ET, 11:45 a.m. PT Stadio San PaoloNaples, Italy

Fact is, the way the schedule is constructed these days, it's virtually impossible to not have chances to swiftly improve what has just gone wrong a few days before. Game day, training session, training session, game day. It's a cycle that is the norm these days with the Champions League starting up earlier this month.

So, if you thought that Juventus would sit around and absolutely stew on Wednesday's result, well, then that's just not going to happen. I sure would like Good Juventus, even Pissed Off Juventus, but it's hard to say what kind of team Juventus is right now no matter who you ask.

It's funny, this current season of ours. Juventus has beaten the best team they've played so far in the form of Manchester City. They've drawn against a team that is probably going to be trying like hell to not get relegated to Serie B. They've lost to a team that desperately wants the silverware that Juve currently has (Roma) and a team that Beppe Marotta is probably scouting right now (Udinese). It's weird, man.

So if you're thinking to yourself "I can't figure this crap out!" right now, don't worry, because you're not the only one.

Do I know which Juventus side is going to show up Saturday at the San Paolo? Nope, no freaking clue.

I do know that if they are as ineffective in front of goal against Napoli as they were in the draw with Frosinone, then it's going to be another frustrating day at the office no matter what the end result is. Of those 36 shots that Juventus totaled, Nicola Leali only had to make six saves. That's just dreadful, and something that can't happen in any game, let alone a big game like this one.

Yes, this is a big game. It's a big game because it's against a rival, and it's a big game because Juventus desperately need to get back on track as another Champions League game and the month October both lurk in the distance.

I like positive results. They make me happy. Remember when 1-0 wins became such a regular thing that it's all Max talked about last season? Man, I sure would be okay with that kind of thing right about now. So go out and get you a 1-0 win, Juventus. Max seems to like them, too.


Napoli is just one point ahead of Juventus in the Serie A table right now. So when you think about who is having a crappier season, it's pretty much an even race at this point.


Simone Padoin might actually play right back.


1. Will the absence of both Martin Cáceres and Stephan Lichtsteiner force Max Allegri to change formations ... again?

Yeah, things are wonderful these days. We might get Padoin at right back or ... it's being rumored that the 3-5-2 is back in the picture, so get your party hats and put up some streamers. We're about to celebrate some good times like Kool & The Gang told us to. Injuries have caused Allegri to switch around with his formation all season long. I'm certainly in the camp of "It's time to play your best XI no matter what," but sometimes that's just not possible when you don't have anybody outside of Padoin to play right back or not enough strikers to field things the way you want to. So, take your pick, Padoin or 3-5-2? It might very well just come down to that simple question.

2. Will Mario Lemina keep his spot in the midfield?

In the struggle that has been the last couple of games in Serie A, one of the few bright spots has been Juventus' other young French midfielder with interesting hair choices. Lemina has certainly impressed against Genoa and Frosinone, which warrants him being in the discussion to not just play against Napoli, but play from the start. Is it a Lemina or Stefano Sturaro kind of situation? Yeah, probably. If it's a 3-5-2, I would like to think Allegri puts Hernanes in the middle. And if that's the case, there could very well be a Brazilian flanked by a couple of youngsters on each side. Basically what I'm trying to say is that Lemina hasn't done much of anything to say he shouldn't stick in the starting lineup during Claudio Marchisio's absence.

3. Does Paulo Dybala get a start?

I sure hope so. You look at Juventus' attack with him on the field compared to him on the sidelines, it's pretty noticeable. We don't know for sure why Allegri hasn't completely let Dybala loose this season, but at some point that's going to change — both for the sake of the team, and when Juve's manager deems him good to go. If that's Saturday as in Sept. 26 or two months from now, who knows, but Juventus' attack is lacking that extra something, and Dybala is capable of delivering it. They created plenty of chances against Frosinone, but we all know how that turned out. Juve need to both create and take advantage of those chances. And if that means playing Dybala more, then that's what needs to happen. If anything, having Dybala on the field from the start would mean Juventus has a better chance to win. And isn't that the point in all of this?

4. Is Álvaro Morata healthy enough to start?

I sure hope so. It's nothing against Simone Zaza, who scored Juve's only goal on his first start with the club. But if Morata is deemed healthy enough to start, then it needs to happen. It's not just the potential of a Morata-Dybala partnership being a distinct possibility, but the fact that they are easily the two best choices for Allegri to go with. While other spots on the field won't allow Allegri to field the best players he has due to injury, Morata and Dybala are the best of the bunch up top. And if it's a 3-5-2, Juan Cuadrado will likely make the switch to right wingback, meaning the likelihood of Morata playing next to Dybala is that much more. Oh, and it makes so much sense. Juventus needs a spark to turn this season around, and Morata (and Dybala) are more than capable of delivering that. Just go back and watch that game-winning goal against Manchester City. Yeah, that's the spark Juve need.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Juan Cuadrado, Mario Lemina, Hernanes, Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra; Álvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala