Over the past eight games in which Juventus has not suffered a loss, we’ve seen Max Allegri’s squad go from a dire situation to something much, much better than that. While we are full aware of the fact that Juve, on the whole, aren’t playing incredible football or anything close to it, it’s the overall end result — the winning! — that has allowed them to fly up the table a whole lot faster than anybody probably imagined they would.
As Juve’s shot up the table there’s been one constant.
It’s the fact that Napoli has been atop the Serie A table the whole time.
There has been one clear-cut top dog through the first 17 rounds of fixtures in Serie A this season — the club in baby blue who plays in Southern Italy. And it just so happens that said team who calls the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium home is the one that is next up on the schedule for a Juventus team that has won eight games in a row and can cut the lead atop the league table to four points with a win over Napoli on Friday night.
Yes, you read that right, folks. A Juventus team that was very much a complete mess at the end of September has the chance to potentially make the Scudetto race absolutely wide open if its winning streak goes from eight to nine. It’s not what we necessarily expected a few months ago — or anything close to it, really — based on what Juve’s form looked like.
But now? Well, Juve’s come this far, so you know damn well they’re going to keep going.
Or so we hope seeing as this current eight-game domestic winning streak has, at least on paper, started to make up for the sub-par beginning of the season we saw from Max Allegri and his squad the first three months of the 2022-23 campaign.
The fact that Juve enters Friday night’s showdown with Napoli ahead of AC Milan in second place on goal differential is something of a minor miracle to some knowing how this season started. The fact that Juve can move within four points of Napoli with a win? Well, that’s even more of a bigger deal than the fact that the winning streak would be pushed to nine straight.
But there’s no denying that this will be Juventus’ biggest test of the season. Forget the fact that it was Inter that handed Napoli its first loss of the season just last week, Luciano Spalletti has built his team into the most consistent side in Serie A — and it’s not really close.
Friday’s matchup sees the highest scoring team in the league face off against the best defense in Italy. It will be that top Serie A defense that will be the latest team to try and slow down Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who has been the breakout star of the 2022-23 season even with his recent appearances not exactly replicating that pre-World Cup break form. It will be about Arek Milik, Juve’s surprise second-leading goal scorer facing his former team for the first time since coming back to Serie A this past summer.
Plus, above all else, it’s first place hosting second place, with first place trying to avoid seeing its lead atop the league table get smaller for the second straight week to begin the January slate of games.
This is just the latest chance for Juventus to continue to turn its season around. It’s another chance to show that the way Max Allegri has set this team up over the course of its current winning streak can actually get things done in big games.
And maybe, just maybe, Juve can head back to Turin with three more points in the bag and make the second half of the season just that much more interesting.
- Paul Pogba is back in partial training but he has not been called up for the trip to Naples.
- Dusan Vlahovic is still out injured. He has not returned to training like Pogba.
- Leonardo Bonucci is still out injured.
- Juan Cuadrado is still out injured. Max Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that he expects
- Mattia De Sciglio and Kaio Jorge are also out injured.
- Bremer is back in the squad after missing the win over Udinese this past weekend.
- Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that he has not yet totally decided on his starting lineup to face Napoli. That was a quote that came immediately after talking about Federico Chiesa, so you can go ahead and put two and two together as to if it might be time for Church from the opening kickoff or not on Friday night.
- Allegri said at his pre-match press conference that he doesn’t expect any of the injured players to be back for the Coppa Italia Round of 16 tie against Monza next week, “but some of them might be available for Atalanta.” So ... progress?
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
As you can probably guess, there’s not going to be much in the way of changes when it comes to Max Allegri’s starting lineup on Friday night. That means the vast majority of the dudes who helped beat Udinese will try to do the same against Napoli. That means, it’s going to be an attack that looks quite the same.
Against Udinese, we saw the very good side of Angel Di Maria. As much as Di Maria just played in the World Cup final — and did quite well in that game, too! — and this game might not be at the same kind of level as that one, Juventus facing Napoli is very much the kind of game in which Allegri needs his best players to be at their best.
The thing with Di Maria is that we’ve seen that in glimpses. We know that he can still very much be the world class player who can be arguably the best player on the field and change a game with a couple of his slick moves to score a goal or set one up. This is the Di Maria that Juve thought they were signing and the one we saw over the weekend against Udinese.
Juve needs that Di Maria against Napoli.
Why? Because when you look on the field, there’s only going to be so many creative options in attack for Juventus — and Di Maria is at the top of the list.
I feel safe in saying that Juve will need Di Maria to be at his Di Maria best if they want any chance of beating Napoli on Friday night. I don’t know how much of an encouraging sign it is that Di Maria played well over the weekend against Udinese, but it hopefully ends up being a sign that just because the World Cup is over with it doesn’t mean the Argentine playmaker is just going to power down in the second half of the season.
Plus, watching Di Maria absolutely cook dudes is so much fun to watch.
When: Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
Where: Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Naples, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, 11:45 a.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); fuboTV Canada (Canada); BT Sport app, BTSport.com (United Kingdom); DAZN, Sky Go Italia (Italy).
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.