The Big Match Tactical View: Juventus v Napoli

Expect a double wing-back battle on the flanks

Juventus have a long unbeaten record to protect, while Napoli struggle away from home against the big boys - can Walter Mazzarri's side pull off a shock victory?

The midfield battle featuring Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal should be fiery
Back a second-off at 3.412/5

Juventus v Napoli, Saturday 5:00, Betfair Live Video.

Match Odds: Juventus 1.794/5, Napoli 5.04/1, The Draw 3.9.

It's impossible to consider Napoli's chances of winning this match without recalling their dreadful record away top 5 clubs in the past couple of seasons - they've collected just two points and conceded 18 goals in those eight games. We also have to bear in mind that Juventus are unbeaten in 46 league games, and are yet to lose at their new stadium.

Yet Juve have recently lost to Napoli - in the Coppa Italia final back in May, when Walter Mazzarri recorded a 2-0 victory over Antonio Conte thanks to an Edinson Cavani penalty and a Marek Hamsik breakaway goal. The subsequent 4-2 Supercoppa debate was followed by Napoli complaints about controversial refereeing decisions - this now feels like a proper rivalry, and with both sides on 19 points from a possible 21 at the top of the table, this is a huge game.

Tactically, it should be fascinating. 3-5-2 is now Juventus' default shape, but Conte originally started using that formation exclusively against other sides who played three at the back - primarily Udinese and Napoli. "All teams who play 3-5-2 cause us problems," admits Mazzarri - so it's difficult to see Conte choosing any other system.

Conte is a big admirer of Christian Maggio, Napoli's right-wing-back, and his decision to change formation last year was partly to get a player tracking him up and down the line. Marcelo Estigarribia wasn't good enough defensively to stop him at the San Paolo, but Paolo De Ceglie did a good job in Turin and he could start ahead of Kwadwo Asamoah here. On the other side, Stephane Lichtsteiner is a better player than Juan Zuniga, and will force the Colombian back towards his own goal.

In the centre of midfield, there should be a frantic two-versus-two clash - Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami against Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal. All are mobile, combative and feisty - this will be a tremendous battle.

More crucial, however, is the contest between Juvents' deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo and Napoli attacking midfielder Hamsik. The Slovakian successfully nullified Pirlo last season, although at the expense of his own attacking ability - he needs to stop Pirlo playing forward passes, but then storm forward on the break, turning Juve's probable three-versus-two advantage at the back into a more dangerous three-versus-three.

Mazzarri rarely makes surprise selection decisions - a minor change in defence might be on the cards, but that's about it - but Conte's selection upfront is unknown. So far this season he's favoured Sebastian Giovinco behind Mirko Vucinic, but reports from Italy suggest he'll favour a combination of Alessandro Matri and Naples-born Fabio Quagliarella. If I were Conte, I'd go for Matri to hold the ball up and occupy the Napoli centre-backs, then tell Giovinco to float around in the hole just behind, taking advantage of the fact neither Inler nor Behrami are natural holders, and will be drawn higher up into a midfield battle.

The game's star player is Cavani - likely to be fielded upfront with support from Goran Pandev to his right. Cavani has a decent record against Juventus and, will hope Maggio and Zuniga get forward and supply him with crosses.

There have been 24 goals in the last six games between these sides in all competitions, and it's unusual - but right in this case - to see Over 2.5 goals at 1.865/6 in a match between Serie A's top two. Still, I don't see a great deal of value in that market. Instead, I like the look of a sending-off at around 3.613/5, primarily because of the aforementioned midfield battle - but also because of the past refereeing controversies, which will make this a tempestuous encounter.

Recommended bet:
Back a second-off at 3.412/5

Exclusive Video

It's the big Serie A match with champions Juventus taking on challengers Napoli. Find out what our panel think will happen and which betting strategies they recommend when Alan Thompson and Zonal Marking's Michael Cox join Dave Farrar for this exclusive video. Plus, for added enjoyment, there's insight from football journalist Ben Lyttleton and super stats from Opta's Duncan Alexander. Watch the vid then place your own bets on the Juventus v Napoli match.

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