In what will be the first domestic cup final since the extended break, Napoli and Juventus’ clash at the Stadio Olympico is the perfect opportunity for Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli side to win their first Copa Italia trophy since the 2013/14 season.
Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus side however will be looking to regain focus and return to winning ways, a win in the final will give the Old Lady an added boost in the Serie A title race, with Lazio hot on their tails.
One thing the semi-finals weren’t short of was action (despite what score lines reflect) – from Ante Rebic’s Kung-Fu kick on Danilo following Ronaldo’s penalty miss, to Dries Mertins becoming Napoli’s all-time top goal scorer – one thing’s for sure, we’re in for an entertaining game.
So what can we expect? What does history tell us? And who should we be looking out for?
Head to Head
Historically, Juventus have come out of this fixture on top more often than Napoli, over 36 encounters, Juventus have won 17, drawing 8 and losing 11.
Despite Napoli’s recent 2-1 win against Juve in January, recent from would point towards a Juventus win – With Sarri’s side emerging victorious in three of their previous five encounters.
If league positioning is anything to go by, all signs point towards a Juventus win, with them sitting in first place, 24 points ahead of Napoli… could the stage be set for a Napoli upset?
Ones to Watch
As previously mentioned, Dries Mertins scored his 122nd goal for the club against Inter Milan in the second leg of the semi-final to overtake ex-teammate Marek Hamsik’s record. The Belgian forward will be one to watch in the final as he will spearhead the Napoli front three.
The obvious candidate for this category is the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo, who had lost his first cup final for seven years in December against Lazio, however Paulo Dyballa will be my one to watch in this game, who can occupy a variety of positions.
The Argentinian maverick boasts a remarkable 13 goals and 6 assists in all competitions this season, in a team which features Cristiano Ronaldo – those are some impressive numbers. Versatility is key for Dyballa, however I see him thriving in the position of a ‘10’, where he can really influence the game.
What to Expect
In the second leg of the semi-finals, despite Napoli being the home side they only had 32% possession throughout the game, which isn’t uncommon for a counter-attacking side. However, it will be interesting to see if Gattuso’s side can replicate the success of the semi-final without the influence of the crowd.
Most counter-attacking teams such as Wolves, Athletico Madrid and many more are always backed with tens of thousand passionate fans, which can really elevate teams in such scenarios. So, it will be a tough ask for Napoli to produce on the counterattack.
This, however, will tend to suit Juve, who are more of a possession-based side themselves. The Old Lady had 64% of the ball in the second leg against AC Milan and will look to dominate on the ball.
With the final being held in a neutral venue in the Stadio Olympico, I feel this really could be anyone’s game. Napoli showed real character to come back from 1-0 down so early on against Inter, after an absolute howler from David Ospina – but there really isn’t much margin for error in cup finals.
Ronaldo will certainly be out to avenge Juve’s Supercoppa Italia loss to Lazio in December and add another winner medal to his arsenal.
I’m predicting a 2-1 win for Juventus, with Ronaldo and Dyballa scoring for Juve and Mertins scoring for Napoli. Ronaldo was born to produce on occasions such as this, he certainly won’t be wanting another runners up medal.
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