Change is in the air in Turin. A new President was confirmed this week, while Coach Ciro Ferrara finally rediscovered the art of winning. The Juve legend emerged from his recent sticky patch with his pride somewhat bruised, but his title ambitions still intact. As injuries, suspensions and a loss of form took its toll, he will hope to cap off a difficult month with a win and ease the pressure from those who think he is too naïve to lead his side to the Serie A title. Since his arrival in early October as Napoli Coach, Walter Mazzarri has overseen a mini-transformation in his side’s play and attitude, putting the Neapolitans within touching distance of the top four. The Partenopei’s new-found resolve saw them overcome both Bologna and Fiorentina, albeit narrowly, with the result in Florence ending a barren run of four straight away defeats.
Matches between these two sides have always been tense affairs, however, the Partenopei have failed to secure at least a point in Turin in their last four attempts – the last time that occurred was during the 1996/97 season.
The Bianconeri suffered a double injury blow this week as Uruguayan right-back Martín Cáceres fractured his nose in a training ground collision prior to the midweek game against Sampdoria, while top-scorer Vincenzo Iaquinta underwent an operation on his knee which will keep him out of action for at least six weeks. This means that Frenchman David Trézeguét resumes his partnership up front with the in-form Amauri. Coach Ferrara was buoyed somewhat by the news that club captain Alessandro Del Piero returned to the first team squad, and will start Saturday’s match on the bench. Ferrara has one eye on Wednesday’s European encounter against Maccabi Haifa, and may opt to rest one or two of his star players – Grosso and Melo are most likely to be given the day off, with Paolo De Ceglie and Christian Poulsen poised to step in. Injuries continue to rule out Hasan Salihamidzic, Tiago, and Claudio Marchisio.
21 Grygera – 5 Cannavaro – 3 Chiellini – 6 Grosso
16 Camoranesi – 22 Sissoko – 4 Melo
17 Trézeguét – 11 Amauri
Napoli Tactician Mazzarri will assess the fitness of his players after the midweek showdown with Milan. Should his players come through unscathed, he will no doubt look to name an unchanged starting line-up. Should that be the case, he will start with his tried-and-trusted 4-2-3-1 formation. Central defender Matteo Contini is available after serving a one-match ban which ruled him out against Milan. Rumoured Juve target Fabiano Santacroce and Juan Zúñiga remain long-term absentees. Those two aside and with no suspensions to report of, Mazzarri has a fully-fit squad at his disposal.
26 De Sanctis
2 Grava – 77 Rinaudo – 28 Cannavaro – 6 Aronica
23 Gargano -5 Pazienza
11 Maggio – 17 Hamšik – 7 Lavezzi
At the start of the season, Napoli would have looked upon this particular sequence of games (against Fiorentina, Milan and Juventus) with trepidation, however, they are enjoying a good run of form, and confidence is high. Mazzarri won’t allow his team to bask in the glory of a solitary away win at the Artemio Franchi, and will want his side to follow up that performance with another at the Stadio Olimpico, where tehe Bianconeri seem frightened to play in front of expectant supporters demanding a ‘30th’ championship. The Bianconeri will need to be on their guard against the threat of lone striker Fabio Quagliarella, however, the real danger will come from those behind him. Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamšik is in the best form of his career to date, and will constantly look to act as a supply-line to his fellow attackers. The ex-Samp Coach will again look to fellow Bluerchiati favourite Christian Maggio to continue his runs down the right and continue his fine goalscoring form, with Ezequiel Lavezzi enjoying more freedom on the lef. The Partenopei may not have it all their way, though, as Juve are still Juve. Diego – although nowhere near the kind of form he showed at the start of the season – will be a constant danger, and will look to test the Neapolitan defence with some testing set-piece deliveries. The real ace in the pack, however, may lie in the form of Del Piero – given half a chance. Desperate to be let off the leash this season, there may be life in the old dog yet.