Italy: the ambitious Naples to the Turin revealer

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Roma (AFP) – The great ambition of Naples to conquer a first title of champion of Italy since the Maradona era passes a major test, Friday, against Juventus Turin, again becoming a candidate for the scudetto despite the financial and judicial turmoil.

Two days before the end of the first leg, Napoli are guaranteed to be winter champions, seven points ahead of the Bianconeri (2nd) and AC Milan (3rd). But Mario Rui’s teammates are obviously looking beyond, dreaming of bringing a league title to the south of Italy in June, trusted by the big clubs in the north.

Juventus Turin, AC Milan and Inter Milan have monopolized the scudetto for more than twenty years, since the coronations of Lazio Rome (2000) and AS Roma (2001).

Naples has been waiting for more than 30 years for a third title after the two offered in 1987 and 1990 by Diego Maradona. Around the stadium which now bears the name of the icon who died in 2020, the tifosi hope that it will finally be the right one, after an almost perfect first part of the season, both in the league and in the Champions League.

Napoli have been able to compensate for major departures (Koulibaly, Insigne, Mertens, Fabian Ruiz), mainly to reduce the wage bill, with clever recruitments, such as Kim Min-jae in defense and Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone in attack.

– Renewal of Juve –

With the best attack in Serie A (39 goals in 17 matches) led by the top scorer in the championship Victor Osimhen (ten achievements), Naples has lost only once, last week against Inter Milan (1-0 ) during the post-World Cup recovery.

This misstep gave some hope to the competitors, even if the Neapolitans rebounded on Sunday in Genoa against Sampdoria (2-0) to keep seven points ahead of this Juve who returned with great strides: it remains on eight consecutive wins without conceding a goal.

Adrift at the beginning of October after two defeats in quick succession against AC Milan (2-0) in the league then Maccabi Haifa (2-0) in the Champions League, the “Old lady” has indeed raised her head and especially found defensive virtues.

Juventus’ Italian coach Massimiliano Allegri just before receiving a yellow card during the Serie A match against Udinese in Turin on January 7, 2023 © Isabella BONOTTO / AFP/Archives

If this did not prevent elimination from the group stage in C1, Juve has at least become in Italy the combative, solid team (best defense with seven goals conceded) and effective promised by its trainer Massimiliano Allegri. She notably subdued Inter Milan (2-0) and Lazio (3-0) to achieve a spectacular comeback (from 8th to 2nd place in eight matches), despite the physical glitches of Paul Pogba or Dusan Vlahovic.

‘Naples clear favourite’

Enough to revive the memory of the 2015/16 season among supporters, when the Bianconeri, already with Allegri, had been crowned despite a catastrophic start, thanks in particular to a series of fifteen consecutive victories.

“Even without their eight straight wins, they are one of the most difficult teams to face,” said Neapolitan coach Luciano Spalletti, who knows the importance of this duel for the confidence of his players.

Allegri, he maintains that Naples “is still a clear favorite for the scudetto”, ensuring that his objective remains the Top 4 qualifier for the next C1.

A way for “Max” to encourage his players to keep a low profile more than ever while the club remains weighed down by bad accounts (240 M EUR in losses last season) which earned him to be in the crosshairs at the same time UEFA and Italian justice, for alleged financial fraud.

Napoli's Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen after opening the scoring during the Serie A match against Sampdoria in Genoa on January 8, 2023
Napoli’s Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen after opening the scoring during the Serie A match against Sampdoria in Genoa on January 8, 2023 © Andreas SOLARO / AFP/Archives

This match in Naples is also officially the last in the presidency of Andrea Agnelli, who announced his resignation at the end of November, just before the Turin prosecutor’s office requested his dismissal. His designated successor, Gianluca Ferrero, 59, is due to be officially elected next Wednesday.

Italy: the ambitious Naples to the Turin revealer