Napoli vs Juventus: Coppa Italia Final Preview and Prediction
Napoli and Juventus are set to meet in Rome on Wednesday night in the Coppa Italia final after the two teams qualified for the finals last week.
Juventus got lucky because of the away goal rule and knocked AC Milan out of the competition, while Napoli ,who still have to win the competition since 2014, drew with Internazionale on Sunday.
A draw helped Gennaro Gattuso’s men to proceed as the aggregate score was 2-1 which means Gattuso now has his first shot at a silverware as a head coach.
Head to Head
Since Napoli reemerged as Serie A contenders, the fixture has been an intoxicating one.
Juventus have had an upper hand when it comes to victories though it was the Neapolitans who came away with three points in their last game, as Lorenzo Insigne lifted his side to a 2-1 victory.
The Bianconeri have won three out of the last five games between the sides but most of the games have been very tight.
Napoli have had a tough time since the turn of the year and have slipped down into the mid-table. However, since the changes made in the management, the Partenopei have done really well and have enjoyed a slow but steady run of form as they fight for European football next season.
With all this, success in the Coppa Italia will be a huge positive for Napoli and Gattuso in a season that has been very hard on them.
Like Napoli, Juventus have also had some ups and downs. The Bianconeri are stressed with a tight title race, with Lazio just a point away from the top spot.
The winter was specifically challenging for the Old Lady as they suffered losses against Napoli, Verona and Lyon. Thus, a victory in the final is something that can boost the squad as Serie A is just a few days away from resumption.
Napoli are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions with three wins and two draws, which includes a draw with Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.
Juventus have won three, drawn one and lost one in their last five with their latest draw coming against AC Milan.
Kostas Manolas missed Napoli’s semi-final second leg against Inter and that indicates that the defender is still not fully healed from a muscular injury. He is most likely to miss the final, while Stanislav Lobotka and Kevin Malcuit remain injured and out of contention.
David Ospina was booked for time-wasting in his last game and hence is suspended.Alex Meret is expected to start as his replacement.
Gonzalo Higuain will be most probably excluded from the 23-man squad as he goes through a suspected thigh injury. Giorgio Chiellini and Aaron Ramsey are doubts as well, as they missed the Milan game and are training individually.
Turkish international Merih Demiral was ruled out for the rest of the season initially but the extension of the league may or may not witness the player’s presence and as things stand, he will definitely miss the finals.
Dries Mertens vs Leonardo Bonucci
The battle will be no doubt a fierce one as both of them have excelled in their respective departments.
Leonardo Bonucci has been as robust as a wall while Dries Mertens has shown that he can breach any defense.
Mertens has three goals and an assist in his last five games which shows how lethal he has been recently. Bonucci has been solid and compact and he has also managed to break other backlines with his beautiful long balls.
Mertens has the momentum as he recently surpassed Marek Hamsik's tally of 121 goals to become Napoli's all-time leading goalscorer.
Kalidou Koulibaly vs Cristiano Ronaldo
Carlos Ancelotti rightly said, "There's only one person who is more dangerous than Ronaldo and that Ronaldo who has not scored in his previous game."
Ronaldo will be looking to do whatever it takes to get on the scoresheet. The Portuguese captain missed a penalty, something that is very unlikely as he has managed only to miss only four spot kicks in four years.
Koulibaly has been one of the most underrated defenders in recent times but has cost Napoli some crucial points lately. However, with his physicality and crisp tackles, he will be looking forward to cause problems for the Old Lady.
Keeping an in-form Romelu Lukaku quiet in his last game comes as a huge positive for him and Gattuso's Napoli and the battle will surely be an eye-catching one.
After losing Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana finals last year, the Old Lady will be fired up while for Napoli, it is an indication that Juventus are not invincible anymore.
Napoli caused them problems in January and Juventus will be looking for perfect revenge. There is no specific favorite for this fixture but again, the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo will be very influential and it certainly shifts the balance in Juventus' favor.
Predicted scoreline: Napoli 1-2 Juventus
featured image credits- Reuters