Juventus begin 2022 by hosting a stricken Napoli in Serie A on Thursday night.
This fixture has been entrenched in availability controversy in recent years and it’s no different on this occasion. While Juve have a mini-crisis at centre-back, their woes are incomparable to the visitors. Still, the show must go on and Juve have a prime opportunity to snatch points off a likely top-four rival.
Napoli’s season was derailed by injuries before Christmas as they lost three of their final four games of 2021. The absence of Victor Osimhen is slowly starting to take its toll following Dries Mertens’ purple patch, but it was Kalidou Koulibaly’s injury that proved the most costly. Luciano Spalletti will now be without his star defender for the next month as he departs for the African Cup of Nations.
On the contrary, Juventus concluded 2021 in style and they ended the calendar year in fifth following a historically poor start to the Serie A season. While the Scudetto is surely out of their reach, the Champions League spots are in their grasp. The Bianconeri begin 2022 just four points adrift of Atalanta in fourth and they’ll be buoyed by the return of two attacking stars for their January gauntlet.
Their tricky month begins against an albeit depleted Napoli, and here’s our preview of Thursday’s game.
How to watch Juventus vs Napoli
When is kick-off? Thursday 6 January
What time is kick-off? 19:45 (BST)
Where is it played? Allianz Stadium
TV channel/live stream? BT Sport 1 (UK), Paramount+ (US)
Referee? Simone Sozza
VAR? Massimiliano Irati
Juventus Team News
Juventus are poised to be thin in defence for Thursday’s clash with Giorgio Chiellini and Koni De Winter out with COVID and Leonardo Bonucci an injury doubt. Thus, Daniele Rugani is in line to start just his second Serie A game of the season alongside Matthijs de Ligt.
Arthur Melo and third-choice goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio also tested positive for COVID last week, while Kaio Jorge and Luca Pellegrini are poised to miss out with separate illnesses.
On a brighter note, Federico Chiesa and Paulo Dybala are back in full training and in contention to start. Alvaro Morata should also be called upon with his move to Barcelona stalling.
Danilo should return in mid-January with Aaron Ramsey’s status for Thursday unknown.
Napoli Team News
Napoli will be without a whole host of first-teamers for the trip to Turin, but they could welcome back Fabian Ruiz and Lorenzo Insigne.
Elif Elmas and Hirving Lozano are missing due to COVID, while André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Kalidou Koulibaly and Adam Ounas would have departed for the African Cup of Nations. Victor Osimhen, who’s also tested positive for COVID, is a long-term injury absentee.
Juventus vs Napoli Predicted Lineups
Juventus: Szczesny; De Sciglio, Rugani, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Chiesa, Locatelli, McKennie, Bernardeschi; Dybala, Morata.
Napoli: Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Rui; Lobotka, Fabian; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Mertens.
Juventus’ Recent Form
Juventus 2-0 Cagliari (21/12) – Serie A
Bologna 0-2 Juventus (18/12) – Serie A
Venezia 1-1 Juventus (11/12) – Serie A
Juventus 1-0 Malmo (08/12) – Champions League
Juventus 2-0 Genoa (05/12) – Serie A
Napoli’s Recent Form
Napoli 0-1 Spezia (22/12) – Serie A
AC Milan 0-1 Napoli (19/12) – Serie A
Napoli 0-1 Empoli (12/12) – Serie A
Napoli 3-2 Leicester City (09/12) – Europa League
Napoli 2-3 Atalanta (04/12) – Serie A
Who knows what we’re going to see from Massimiliano Allegri’s in 2022. It’s a lottery.
For games like this in the first half of 2021/22, Allegri would attempt to block space, press sporadically and hit the opposition on the counter-attack. That’s what we saw in the reverse fixture on Matchday 3, but Napoli prevailed as 2-1 victors.
He could adopt a similar approach against a side that, despite their absentees, will still seek to dominate the ball and control the game, but I expect to see a rather proactive Juve on Thursday.
Napoli’s projected XI is still pretty impressive and they certainly have enough to make this contest more than competitive. Fabian’s return in midfield is massive, as is Insigne’s from a creative perspective.
Alas, this may be trickier than some suspect for the Bianconeri, but I’m backing them to prevail with both teams scoring.
Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Napoli