Napoli set out to exploit Juve's weakness

Reuters, Thursday 7 Nov 2013

Napoli to play Serie A Champions Juventus on Sunday, challenging leaders AS Roma

Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain (L) celebrates after scoring against Olympique Marseille during their Champions League soccer match at San Paolo stadium in Naples November 6, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Sensing weakness in their rivals, Napoli are aiming to put pressure on Serie A leaders AS Roma by defeating champions Juventus in Turin on Sunday (1945 GMT).

Rafael Benitez's Napoli occupy second place in the league but are level on 28 points with Juve and three behind Roma who, despite facing lowly Sassuolo (1400), are worried that a lack of strike power will hamper them.

Juventus have not looked as strong as in previous, title-winning seasons, suffering an embarrassing 4-2 defeat at Fiorentina last month and conceding 10 goals in 11 games.

With Gonzalo Higuain, who scored twice in the Champions League win over Olympique Marseille on Wednesday, leading a stellar forward line that has catapulted them to their best start to a league campaign, Napoli aim to take advantage of the uncertainty in Juve's back line.

Jose Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Higuain have scored 17 of Napoli's 24 league goals between them and Argentine Higuain believes he has much more to come.

"I'm happy. I still need to improve but I'm feeling good, and that's what matters," the 25-year-old said after Wednesday's win put Napoli in second place in Champions League Group F.

With an international break coming up next week, both Benitez and Juventus boss Antonio Conte will be picking their best available sides, with Valon Behrami and Hamsik almost certain to return to Napoli's starting line-up.

Striker Mirko Vucinic may return to the Juve squad after an injury lay-off but will not start and wing-back Stefan Lichtsteiner is still out.

Fernando Llorente and Mauricio Isla are favourites to start in the champions' preferred 3-5-2 formation, while Giorgio Chiellini returns to the back line after being suspended for his side's 2-2 Champions League draw with Real Madrid on Tuesday.

While their rivals have an abundance of attacking options, Roma are wondering where the goals are going to come from against Sassuolo at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Rudi Garcia's side will temporarily go six points clear at the top of Serie A if they win but the Frenchman is lacking attackers with Francesco Totti out until mid-December and Gervinho struggling to recover from a thigh injury.

The Giallorossi have averaged a goal a game in the pair's absence, compared to nearly three before their injuries, and Adem Ljajic may start in place of Marco Borriello after the Serbian provided some much-needed spark in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Torino, a result which spoiled their 100 percent start to the season.

Unhappy AC Milan, with question marks over Mario Balotelli's place in the starting line-up, are away to bottom side Chievo on Sunday (1400) while city rivals Inter, lying fourth, host Livorno on Saturday (1945).

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