Napoli 2-0 Juventus: 6 Things We Learned
Juventus travelled to Naples on Sunday evening knowing they already possessed a comfortable 11-point lead in the Serie A standings. The two-time champions also carried with them a superb run of form that had seen Antonio Conte’s men win their seven previous matches, dropping a mere four points over their last 22 league fixtures.
For their part, Napoli bounced back from last weekend’s 1-0 loss at home to Fiorentina with a 4-2 win over Catania on Wednesday. That victory, coupled with Fiorentina’s failure to defeat Sampdoria earlier on Sunday, meant the southern side had a nine-point cushion over the fourth-placed Viola.
Over the following pages are six things the game highlighted about these two teams as Napoli outplayed Juve, going on to win the game 2-0.
Juventus Sorely Miss Carlos Tevez
While reluctant to describe Juventus as over-reliant on Carlos Tevez, it’s clear they miss the Argentinean when he is not in the lineup. He was unavailable for this match after picking up a suspension for the accumulation of yellow cards, and his absence took its toll on the Bianconeri.
Yet such is the influence of the 30-year-old, it is impossible to imagine any side not missing his contribution. He has had an incredible impact on Juve, already weighing in with 18 goals and six assists since arriving from Manchester City.
Conte’s Tactical Shift Helps Defensively but Blunts the Attack
In recent weeks, Juventus have begun bringing the ball out at the back from wide areas, allowing Leonardo Bonucci to become a true defender instead of a second playmaker behind Andrea Pirlo. While that has improved the solidity of the Bianconeri back line, it has blunted their buildup play.
Without his excellent long-range passing, Juve have struggled to break down well organised opponents and Napoli under Benitez are certainly that.
Mauricio Isla Is Slowly Playing into Form
After arriving from Udinese in the summer of 2012, Mauricio Isla missed almost an entire season with injury, making just eight league starts for Juve last term. He has made the same number this term as niggling injuries have limited his impact, but he is slowly showing signs of returning to the heights he reached at his previous club.
He was a constant threat to Napoli after his second-half introduction, adding to good recent performances against Trabzonspor and Fiorentina.
Jose Callejon Is a Genuine Star
Jose Callejon arrived at Napoli with much less fanfare than his former Real Madrid teammate Gonzalo Higuain, but the Spaniard has been sensational. He has instantly settled in Serie A, repaying the faith shown in him by Rafael Benitez this past summer.
The 27-year-old has notched 11 goals and three assists thus far for the southern club, becoming a devastating force whether selected out wide or just behind Higuain. That he has still yet to be capped by the Spanish national side is unfathomable.
Marek Hamsik Stuck to His Task Well
Marek Hamsik was asked to track Andrea Pirlo, a tactical choice that looked to prevent Juventus’ patient approach in midfield. It was an intelligent move, but one which would only pay dividends if the Slovakian stuck to his task.
He did precisely that, limiting the Juve man’s touches by denying him the ball, and the Juventus attack suffered as a result.
Dries Mertens Highlights Improved Napoli Depth
While Napoli fans still lament the sale of Edinson Cavani, it is undeniable that the squad has been vastly improved as a result. Where before they relied almost exclusively on the Uruguayan star, they now have a number of attacking stars contributing.
The introduction of Belgian winger Dries Mertens showcased that new depth, netting less than two minutes after his introduction and sealing the points for the home side.