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Main » 2013 » March » 1 » Napoli - Juventus preview

Napoli - Juventus preview

serie AJuventus head coach Antonio Conte believes the best team will emerge victorious from a hotly anticipated meeting with Napoli which could well determine the destination of the Serie A title.

Walter Mazzarri's Azzurri quickly proved to be the side most likely to challenge reigning Italian champions Juve this year, but whenever the Bianconeri have stumbled Napoli have followed suit.

Victory at the San Paolo would see Napoli halve the six-point gap on first place and set up a tense title run-in, but defeat to the visitors could effectively end their pursuit at an early stage.

The two clubs were battling in Serie B only six years ago and Conte commended Napoli for developing to the point they could feasibly win a first Scudetto since reforming in 2004.

He told "We started from seventh place in our title-winning season whereas Napoli were in the Champions League.

"This year, with the Scudetto under our belts the positions have been reversed and only the fact we had the league title made us favourites.

"Napoli, though, strengthened in the summer and reinforced in January, so they can aspire to winning the title.

"They went out of the Coppa Italia and Europa League early and so are left with just one target, which they are equipped to challenge for."

On the surface a possible nine-point advantage would appear insurmountable with only 11 games remaining but Conte identified several more potential pitfalls along the way.

"There are other big games to come, against Milan, Inter and Lazio," he said. "This is just one of many challenges we need to overcome before we get to the finish line - the league will not end tomorrow.

"There is, of course, great media attention on the game but it will return when we go up against other big teams.

"I'm just pleased that being successful in such a short time has brought so much attention on us."

Conte is likely to keep faith with the team that beat Siena 3-0 last time out, with defender Giorgio Chiellini the only new doubt having suffered a bruised leg during the game.

Midfielder Simone Pepe, striker Nicklas Bendtner and defender Paolo De Ceglie are definitely sidelined through injury.

"The way we play does not change whether we are at home or away," Conte said. "We always try to play purposeful football.

"Sometimes it works and sometimes our opponents stop us but at the San Paolo we will go into the game trying to enforce our own ideas and systems."

Napoli would have entered the match level on points with their rivals if not for three consecutive draws, and midfielder Valon Behrami urged his team-mates to shake off the disappointment and match Juve's steely mental strength.

"In my opinion, this is a key game from a psychological point of view," he told "It can show us who we are and what we can get from this season.

"Juventus are a great team, we will have to attack smartly and at the same time don't let them take any initiative. We must leave a mark, we will try to do it."

Defender Alessandro Gamberini faces a late fitness test as Napoli look for a first league win over Juve since January 2011, with Mazzarri hoping star striker Edinson Cavani can end a six-game goal drought.

Behrami said: "They are six points ahead of us. Besides, they have got experience, self-confidence and they will try to play their own way.

"We must put into practice what we have learned in the last few days. And then only the pitch will determine the winner."
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