Juventus vs Napoli: How Cristiano may fall to Ancelotti's attack
Carlo Ancelotti's side finished a distant second to Juventus last term, but are they primed for a closer challenge in 2019-20?
The second weekend of the new Serie A season sees last term's top two meet in Turin as defending champions Juventus host Napoli.
Juve finished 11 points clear in 2018-19 as Napoli, in Carlo Ancelotti's first campaign in charge, struggled to match their consistency from Maurizio Sarri's reign.
Sarri is now with Juve - an ongoing recovery from pneumonia means he will not be on the bench against his old club on Saturday - and has already criticised his new side's seemingly clumsy transfer strategy.
The door could therefore be open for a different Serie A champion for the first time since Milan were crowned in 2010-11, since when Juventus have triumphed every year.
Omnisport takes a look at four factors that could see Napoli, who were last Scudetto winners during Diego Maradona's time, come out on top.
Napoli only conceded six more goals than Juventus last season but they moved to further strengthen their defence by signing Kostas Manolas from Roma. On paper, they now have one of the most dominant defensive duos in world football, with Manolas joining the excellent Kalidou Koulibaly at the heart of their back line. Some initial teething problems were on show as Napoli shipped three goals at Fiorentina last time out though, with Ancelotti's men requiring Lorenzo Insigne's second goal of the game to edge a 4-3 victory. Alex Meret is only 22 but is considered one of the best young goalkeepers around and he should be well protected once Manolas and Koulibaly form a partnership.
Napoli's front line was already incredibly strong, but the addition of pace ace Hirving Lozano gives them an even greater threat in the final third, plus a wonderful option from the bench against tiring defenders. The Mexico forward has arrived from PSV for a fee that could reportedly rise to €42million - eclipsing Gonzalo Higuain as the club's record buy - but will find it challenging to break into Ancelotti's attack given the coach already has Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon, as well as Poland striker Arkadiusz Milik, to choose from. Insigne, Callejon and Mertens all scored against Fiorentina and Milik - who missed the opening weekend with injury - struck 17 Serie A goals last season.
There is a school of thought that has suggested Ancelotti is a fading force, but his coaching record still demands total respect. The 60-year-old has collected three Champions League titles - nobody has won more - and has triumphed in leagues in Germany, England and Italy, failing to top the table only in Spain, with Real Madrid. Ancelotti's reputation was hurt somewhat by a slightly underwhelming spell with Bayern Munich but he remains one of the most respected coaches in world football, even if he is regarded more as a motivator than an innovator.
Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Roma all have new coaches in the dugout for 2019-20 after an unprecedented close season of upheaval, but steady stability could count in Napoli's favour. Amadou Diawara has been the only notable sale, the midfielder moving to Roma, although Napoli previously lost the inspirational Marek Hamsik to the Chinese Super League in February. Lozano and Manolas look to be two of the most impressive signings in Europe.
Napoli have finished second in three of the past four seasons, but taking the next step is always going to be a huge challenge given Juve's gargantuan financial advantages. An attempted move for James Rodriguez, an Ancelotti favourite from Madrid and Bayern, demonstrated Napoli are serious about being title contenders, although their failure to get that deal over the line indicated there is still a lot of work to do.
Victory for Napoli on Sunday could be the start of a Serie A shake-up, but Juventus have won seven of their last eight home league games against this weekend's opposition. Juve's last home loss, though, came at the hands of Napoli in April 2018, thanks to Koulibaly's late header. If they can repeat the trick, Ancelotti and his charges may start to believe it is their year.
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