Juventus vs. Napoli: What the Clash of the Titans Taught Us
After an exciting 90 minutes, the Bianconeri came away with a 2-0 victory to secure sole possession of the top spot in the Italian Serie A. In the following slides, we present 10 things to take away from this game.
Italian Football Did Not Gain Any New Fans
This was not a pretty game. While Napoli might be the most exciting team to watch in Italy and Juventus have as much quality as anyone in world football right now, Saturday's contest was an ugly affair.
Both teams seemed to be afraid to lose, and the result was a slow, sloppy game. Juventus only managed two good chances before Martin Cáceres opened the scoring after 80 minutes, and Napoli only threatened Marco Storari once, courtesy of a beautiful Edinson Cavani free kick that hit the post.
For a marquee matchup between the best two teams in Italy, this one definitely disappointed.
Sebastian Giovinco Is Trying
One of the few players for the Bianconeri that was able to provide some creativity to the squad, Sebastian Giovinco still looks out of place on the field.
Giovinco had a good start to the game, testing the fists of Morgan De Sanctis within the first minute of play, but he spent the rest of the evening running all over the field and doing very little. He had difficulty linking up with Fabio Quagliarella and lost possession a lot.
"The Atomic Ant" had another good chance in the second half, making space for himself inside the box before shooting wide.
All in all, it was a frustrating night for Giovinco.
Edinson Cavani Is the Most Dangerous Man in Italy
As frustrating a game as it was for Sebastian Giovinco, Edinson Cavani's night was probably worse.
The Uruguayan was on an island all evening, not getting an inch from the Juventus back three. He was unlucky to get booked early for a piece of fine acting by Giorgio Chiellini, and his teammates in midfield could not find a way to feed the striker quality balls all night.
Yet Cavani's presence and hard work unsettled the Bianconeri defense all night, and no one inside Juventus Stadium felt safe until the final whistle blew.
Without being able to produce any danger for Marco Storari (save for a fantastic free kick that hit the wrong side of the upright), Cavani once again proved he is the best striker in Italy.
Quagliarella Needs More Minutes, Matri Doesn't
Fabio Quagliarella was tasked with replacing the injured Mirko Vucinic and was unable to make an impression. He looked slow, mistimed his runs and couldn't hold on to the ball.
He was replaced by Alessandro Matri, who proceeded to ruin one of the few chances the Bianconeri were able to produce.
This game highlighted three things:
- Mirko Vucinic is very important to this team.
- Matri simply isn't good enough.
- Quagliarella can't sit on the bench for five games and be expected to be great when he finally gets his chance.
In terms of goalscoring potential, Quagliarella is probably the best option the Bianconeri have right now, but Antonio Conte is not giving him enough chances to get his form up and be productive.
Marek Hamsik Was Invisible
If this game came down to a battle of the triumvirates, it's safe to say Juventus won.
Arturo Vidal might not have put in his greatest performance, but Claudio Marchisio was his usual energetic self and Andrea Pirlo orchestrated like only he can.
For Napoli, Edinson Cavani was kept in check by the Bianconeri defense and Goran Pandev was very active but couldn't produce anything of note.
And Marek Hamsik?
He put in his worst performance of the season.
I nearly forgot to write down his name in my notes because I couldn't even remember him touching the ball.
In the biggest game of the season so far, Hamsik let down his teammates in a big way.
Juventus Are Good at Making Substitutions
How often have we seen this? In a game in which Juventus are struggling, they bring in one or two substitutes who make the difference.
Kwadwo Asamoah was not having a great game on the left wing, with seemingly every cross he attempted blocked by a blue shirt, and Arturo Vidal looked tired and hadn't produced anything meaningful since the half.
Enter Martin Cáceres and Paul Pogba.
Cáceres immediately brought a new energy to this team, and it wasn't a surprise when he nodded home Pirlo's corner kick in the 80th minute. The Uruguayan talisman made such a tremendous impact, he might have secured a starting spot for the Bianconeri's midweek Champions League fixture.
As for Pogba, I mentioned his thunderous shot in an article earlier this week. His volley secured the three points, but it was his calmness and maturity on the ball that impressed me the most.
The young Frenchman is slowly getting more minutes as the season wears on, and so far he has done everything to prove Antonio Conte right.
Italians Will Be Italians
Italian football has a reputation for diving, but it is the acting that sets the league apart.
Giorgio Chiellini managed to get Edinson Cavani booked for using his elbow only five minutes after he had already dropped down for the same "violation." Cavani himself went down after a charge from Sebastian Giovinco, who is so small that he's not even allowed to go on rollercoasters. Kwadwo Asamoah was so upset over not getting a free kick after a perfectly legal challenge from Hugo Campagnaro, he nearly rolled from one sideline to the other.
But the finest piece of acting came courtesy of Gökhan Inler, who actually pulled off a front-flip after he felt Stephan Lichtsteiner's hand on his shoulder. He didn't stick the landing, but he gets a "B" for style and creativity.
The Referee Was Excellent
Speaking of diving, I have to take my hat off to the referee, Antonio Damato. He wasn't perfect, but that is impossible.
Outside of the yellow card to Edinson Cavani, he did an excellent job. Firm and strict, the man was in perfect control of the biggest game of the season so far.
Valon Behrami Is Very Underrated
Napoli's stars had a rough game, but the supporting cast did an excellent job.
Hugo Campagnaro, Alessandro Gamberini, Juan Zuñiga and Gökhan Inler all deserve a mention, but it was Valon Behrami that really shone today. The Swiss midfielder might have been unable to contribute to the attack, but he was very effective keeping Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio in check.
Juventus Continue to Win Ugly
Last season, Juventus were king of the draws.
The Bianconeri nearly lost the title to AC Milan because of their inability to win ugly games. They went unbeaten in the league, but won only 23 games, drawing the other 15.
If you want to be a top club, you have to find a way to win the games you're supposed to win. And it seems this season Juventus have done exactly that.
Against Sienna two weeks ago, the Bianconeri needed a late goal from Claudio Marchisio to secure the three points. If that was last year, the team would not have won that game.
The same goes for this game. Juventus might have been the better team, but it was not by much, and no one could have complained if the game had ended with the same score as it began with.
Instead, Juventus now find themselves at the top of the table. Putting distance between themselves and Napoli and not allowing Inter Milan to creep any closer means the Bianconeri did exactly what they were supposed to do this weekend.
The Streak Stands at 47
Forty-seven league games without a loss is incredibly impressive.
But there is very little time to celebrate. On Tuesday, the Bianconeri travel to Denmark to take on FC Nordsjælland in a game that has to be won if Juventus wish to reach the next stages of the Champions League.
Juventus had to go deep to beat Napoli, and the Danish should not be underrestimated.
Napoli will have to regroup and travel to Ukraine to take on Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk on Thursday.
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