Serie A: Why Juventus vs. Napoli Will Be the League's Next Big Rivalry

Theo RowleyContributor IJune 6, 2013

ROME, ITALY - MAY 20:  Andrea Barzagli(R) of Juventus FC competes for the ball with Edinson Cavani of SSC Napoli during the Tim Cup final match between Juventus FC and SSC Napoli at Olimpico Stadium on May 20, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

In a season when Juventus romped to their second consecutive league title, not many teams presented La Vecchia Signora with a formidable challenge.

Whilst doubts remain about the potency of their existing strikeforce—Sky Sports reports about the impending arrival of Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain, and the Express claims Stevan Jovetic has been linked with a move to Turin—Juventus have been imperious.

Although they did not replicate their unbeaten record of last season—November's defeat to Inter Milan saw that record tumble one shy of 50 games—they still dropped only 27 points, scored 71 goals and boasted the league's most stringent defence.

With Germany's Bundesliga threatening to oust Serie A from the England-Spain-Italy triumvirate of Europe's most attractive leagues, it's worth remembering the calibre of fierce rivalries that are gifted to us every year from the calcio deities.

Outside of Turin, the Derby della Mole only really registers for the passion it ignites in the city: You have to go back to April of 1995 for the last time that Torino reigned victorious over the magisterial Juventus.

With Sampdoria's promotion this time last year, this season has also seen the return of the Derby della Lanterna, a fierce encounter between Genoa and their city rivals.

Milan's Derby della Madonnina is fated as one of football's deadliest and most fearsome encounters: Inter Milan's capitulation has allowed AC Milan to gain the upper hand, but one grows impatient with the prospect of the former, with Walter Mazzarri recently installed as boss, seeking revenge next season.

In addition, despite being fully sated and over-gorged on a season of compelling football, the season ender of the Coppa Italia final provided a decadent dessert in the form of the year's third Derby Capitolino between Lazio and Roma.

Whilst Roma ultimately finished one place higher, it was Lazio who had the last laugh: As well as remaining unbeaten in their three encounters, a Senad Lulic goal was enough for the Biancocelesti to vanquish the cup. 

With that in mind, the prospect of another rivalry is almost too much.

But when the fixture schedule is released over the next few weeks, the games between Juventus and Napoli are bound to be earmarked as potential title deciders.

Napoli will be smarting from a severe case of hindsight. Finishing second, the gulf between themselves and Juventus was nine points, but it could have been severely slimmer.

Despite the 29 goals scored by the in-demand Edinson Cavani—and despite an end-of-season flurry that saw eight victories in their final 10 games, the Uruguayan and his teammates were left ruing dropping costly, early season points to Catania, Bologna and Inter.

Following Mazzarri's defection to Inter, in Rafael Benitez—fresh from winning the Europa League with Chelsea, his third European trophy—Napoli have a manager who is well-versed in the European game, augmented through a methodical and obsessive approach to tactics, often bespoke and tailored to the opposition.

Whilst Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain bide their time with inevitable bids for Cavani, the club will receive upwards of €50 million, more than enough to purchase two replacements to fill the void of goals.

In Gokhan Inler, Paolo Cannavaro and Marek Hamsik, they have players who will be hungry for the Partneopei to succeed (providing the latter player stays).

With Naples boasting some of the country's most passionate fans—namely thanks to Diego Maradona-inspired title successes in 1987 and 1990—a return to the Champions League will have the city bouncing.

For Juventus, this fixture will have further caveats as they know that not only do Napoli provide the sternest test en route to the title, but that a third consecutive league win would equal a record they have not troubled since the 1930s.

In addition, after being humbled by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the squad will be rejuvenated.

The likes of Alessandro Matri. Fabio Quagliarella, Federico Peluso and Sebastian Giovinco will be weary of the fact that their place in Juventus' roster is in threat. 

What are your thoughts? Will Benitez's Napoli come back stronger next season? Or have they been taken as far as they can? Can Juventus capture title number three? Let me know either in the comments section below, or via Twitter: @LeRowley