Juventus host Napoli on Saturday night in what promises to be an explosive affair. The Neapolitan side matched Juve for long stretches of last season, but fell away in the end despite striker Gonzalo Higuain’s capocannoniere record of 36 goals. However, the biggest part of the drama didn’t play out until the summer when the Bianconeri activated the Argentine’s release clause and transferred him over to Turin for the princely sum of €94m.
In the pre-match conference, here is what manager Massimiliano Allegri had to say about the player’s performances so far for Juve.
“Gonzalo has already scored seven goals. It just so happens that he’s not scored for a few games, but I’m calm, I’m happy with what he’s doing.
“We must help him, even if he doesn’t score every Sunday. The most important thing is the Scudetto at the end of the season, the Champions League and Coppa Italia.”
On the bad blood on the Partinopei’s side following the transfer -
“Leaving Napoli for Juve? It was a choice, we’re all professionals. All things start and end, their fans should be grateful to him for what he did, and him for the affection he received. He’s very attached to the city of Naples.
“Sarri’s doing a great job, Napoli play beautiful football, are fighting for the title and are built for the top three.
“Without a centre forward, they have fewer points of reference in attack, so we must be good at not conceding breakaways and in the management of the ball.
“Great balance and patience is needed. They’re dangerous on the counterattack.”
Despite the magnitude of the game, Allegri said he didn’t feel it would mark a turning point in Juve’s season.
“Tomorrow’s match is only the 11th round of the campaign, so it won't decide the fate of the title.
"The first head to head meeting is never decisive, it is the return legs that always count.
“On October 28th last year, we lost against Sassuolo and were 12th in the standings. After a year, things have changed. This shows that you always need balance because in the end, championships are always decided in March.
"Tomorrow will be an important game, but the most important game for us will be on Wednesday [against Lyon] because we must try to close out Champions League qualification."
He also talked about the injury situation at Juve -
"We'll be assessing Claudio Marchisio today. After such a long absence, we need to manage him carefully. He played two weeks ago and had a good match. As for tomorrow, I still have to decide and evaluate.
"Fortunately the knee is fine. The problem is that after 72 hours, there may be risks of muscular problems, so I have to be very careful and speak with him.
“Stefan Lichtsteiner might play, he is training very well and is a serious professional. I must make the choice.
"Patrice Evra took a shot, and had some hardening on the calf muscle, and will be evaluated today to see whether he will be available or not.
"As for Juan Cuadrado, there are games in which I prefer to start him from the beginning. It’s normal that at this time that I have only two alternatives up front in Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain."