Napoli v Juventus talking points

Serie A leaders Napoli host reigning champions Juventus on Friday and an Azzurri victory will leave the Bianconeri seven points adrift of top spot.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points before the showdown at the San Paolo.

Tables are turned

Typically when Napoli tackle Juve the southern side are battling to narrow the gap on first place as the Bianconeri draw ever closer to winning the Scudetto. However, after 14 games of this season, Juve are the club playing catch-up as Napoli sit two points clear of second-placed Inter Milan. Both are unbeaten while Juve, defeated twice already, sit another two points off the pace. An away victory will put the Old Lady right back in the race but a loss will do major damage to their title defence.

Higuain or Higua-out?

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain
Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain will be desperate to play against his former club (Mike Egerton/EMPICS)

As fate would have it, just days before a match against his former club, Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain appeared to be ruled out after breaking a bone in his hand. Despite the risk he could hurt himself more seriously if he plays, Juve seem keen to include him in the travelling squad and rate his chances of featuring at 50-50. Higuain has always made an impact in this game, although not necessarily with goals, as Napoli and their fans are always distracted by making him feel their wrath.

Insigne in fine form

Lorenzo Insigne
Lorenzo Insigne has been in fine form for Napoli of late (Scott Heavey/PA)

While Juve ponder whether or not they will unleash Higuain against Napoli, Friday night’s hosts have almost all of their attacking options available. Key among them is Lorenzo Insigne, the Italy striker who has, after a struggle, secured a place in the starting line-up with goals against Manchester City, AC Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk. Lethal at long and short range, the expert dribbler will surely target Juve’s creaking back-line, which conceded three goals to Sampdoria two weeks ago.

History not on Juve’s side

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will be keen to keep a rare clean sheet in Naples (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Juve may have successfully kept ambitious Napoli at arm’s length to win the title six years on the spin but their performances in this head-to-head encounter have been less than consistent. Remarkably the Bianconeri have failed to keep a clean sheet at the San Paolo since March 1997 and across the subsequent league and cup meetings in Naples they have conceded three goals on five occasions. Most glaring is their record of one solitary win in the Campanian city between October 2000 and now.

European distraction

Once again Juve head into an important league tie with one eye on the Champions League challenge to come. They dropped points at Sporting Lisbon after giving their all to beat AC Milan while resting key men in a victory over Chievo could not prevent a heavy defeat at Barcelona. Tuesday’s trip to Olympiacos is a must-win for the Old Lady as last season’s finalists risk being beaten into the last 16 by Sporting. It is difficult to affirm that more effort should be made in Greece than Naples, though.

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