Early Juventus v Napoli Clash: Is there a Serie A Title Race This Season?4 min read
There was a point last season at which Napoli appeared to have the edge over Juventus at the top of Serie A. With just a few games of the campaign left to play, Maurizio Sarri’s side had the momentum. Just a single point separated the two sides with four fixtures remaining as Napoli drew in the Bianconeri.
Of course, as we now know, Juve managed to hold off Sarri’s side, clinching their seventh straight Scudetto. This looked to be a bookend on what had been a burgeoning rivalry, with Sarri leaving then Stadio San Paolo for Chelsea and Cristiano Ronaldo making the move to Turin to only further tighten Juventus’ grip on Italian football.
Indeed, the signing of Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner arguably the best goalscorer to have ever played the game, prompted many to predict that Juventus would be untouchable at the top of Serie A this season. That might still materialise, with Max Allegri’s side winning five from five to start the campaign. But the expected Napoli collapse hasn’t come, at least not yet.
The appointment of Carlo Ancelotti as Sarri’s replacement was a peculiar, and unexpected, one. The 59-year-old is one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the game and a multiple Scudetto winner. But stylistically, he is very different to Sarri. There is almost nothing that links the two men and so Ancelotti was predicted to be something of a misfit at his new club.
Five games in and this doesn’t appear to be the case, though. Napoli have lost just once and sit just three points behind Juventus in second place ahead of this weekend’s clash between the two sides at the Allianz Stadium. Ancelotti has succeeded in making Napoli, in his own words, “more solid,” but that hasn’t come at the cost of their quality higher up the pitch. They remain one of the most dynamic, exciting teams in the Italian game.
Whether that will translate into a genuine title challenge will be determined over the coming weeks and months, but Saturday’s match will at least give us an indication of whether the contest between Juventus and Napoli will pick up where it left off at the end of last season. There was a sense of the rivalry building. That has been disrupted by what happened at the two clubs over the summer, but the spirit remains and that could still result in a compelling race at the top of Serie A.