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2 March 2013
• Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
Referee: D. Orsato
• Attendance: 60000
G. İnler 43'
G. Chiellini 10'
With games against Milan, Inter and Lazio still to come, Antonio Conte will know that there is still a long way to go for Juventus to register a record 29th league title. The Bianconeri return to Champions League action on Wednesday night when they look to secure their passage to the quarter-finals with a 3-0 first-leg lead over Celtic. Napoli will look to secure their first win in seven games when they travel to Verona next weekend to take on Eugenio Corini's Chievo. Thanks for joining me, Max Bentley, on this Goal.com live commentary. Make sure to check out the match report, player ratings and reaction. Until next time folks, goodbye!
FULL TIME: NAPOLI 1 - 1 JUVENTUS. Antonio Conte's side remain six points clear at the top with that draw at the Stadio San Paolo. In truth, it was probably the fair result as both sides exchanged blows in an absorbing Serie A encounter. Blerim Dzemaili had a brilliant chance to put Napoli in front in the second half but Juventus will also look back to Vucinic's glaring miss when they were 1-0 ahead in the first half. Chiellini marked his comeback to the starting eleven with a wonderful header to open the scoring before Gokhan Inler's thunderbolt levelled things up before the break. Still all to play for in the Scudetto race but it is Juventus who have the advantage.
90' + 3'
Daniele Orsato blows the final whistle. 1-1!
90' + 2'
Armero whips a cross into the Juventus box which Cavani looks to cushion into the path of Hamsik, but Chiellini is there once again to clear. It's been a brilliant return to action for the 28-year-old.
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
Lorenzo Insigne does brilliantly to cut inside Lichtsteiner but Paolo Armero disappointingly fails to pick out a blue shirt with his cross. Is there one last chance for Napoli?
Juventus look to run down the clock by holding onto possession. With eleven games to go and six points separating the teams, this Scudetto race could go down to the wire!
Cavani steps up to take the freekick but can only watch his curled effort fly over the crossbar. It seems his goal drought is set to continue...
Yellow Card Federico Peluso
Peluso is shown a yellow card for hauling down Cavani on the edge of the box. Brilliant chance for the home side here...
Change for both sides as Paolo Armero replaces Gokhan Inler whilst Conte looks to shore up the Juve midfield by introducing Paul Pogba in place of Mirko Vucinic. Decisions, decisions.
Gokhan Inler looks to replicate his earlier effort with another stinging drive from the edge of the box and his well-struck effort is fingertipped over the bar by Buffon. Napoli pushing for a winner.
Andrea Pirlo splits the Napoli defence with an incise through pass but Vucinic just cannot pick out Matri with his cross and De Sanctis is allowed to claim. Remember, a goal for Juventus would send them nine points clear with eleven games remaining.
From a Napoli corner, Juventus break at pace but Lichtsteiner loses his footing at the crucial moment and miskicks his cross into the side netting. It looks like Mazzarri is about to throw on his final substitute.
Into the final ten minutes, can Mazzarri's side find a goal from somewhere to cut Juventus' lead at the top of Serie A to three points?
Pirlo whips in a corner from the right but Matri's wild half-volley balloons high into the crowd.
Matri looks to inflict instant damage when he dashes to the front post to meet Lichtsteiner's low cross, but Campagnaro gets across the goalmouth excellently to produce a vital interception.
Pirlo draws two Napoli defenders towards him before producing some neat footwork to feed Vucinic on the edge of the box, but the Montenegrin's well-struck effort flies high over the crossbar. Into the final fifteen minutes in Naples.
First change from Conte as Alessandro Matri replaces Sebastian Giovinco. Can he add to his six-goal Serie A tally?
WHAT A CHANCE FOR NAPOLI TO TAKE THE LEAD! Hamsik has worked tirelessly tonight and the Slovakian's powerful drive forces Buffon into a fantastic save down low to his left and the rebound falls kindly for Dzemaili who can only put the ball the wrong side of the post. That should have been 2-1 Napoli!
GOOD CHANCE FOR CAVANI! The Uruguayan has been well managed by the three-man Juventus defence tonight but this time he does brilliantly to evade his marker and get his head to Maggio's superb right-wing cross, but Buffon produces a smart save.
Campagnaro concedes a freekick 30 yards out from goal but Pirlo's effort can only hit the Napoli wall. The 33-year-old doesn't have his shooting boots on this evening.
Maggio has not had too much joy down the Napoli right this evening but this time he does wonderfully to jink past Peluso before his thunderous near-post strike is pushed behind by Buffon for a corner.
De Sanctis has not had to do too much in this second period but he produces a fine stop to prevent Vucinic's swerving drive from the edge of the box. End-to-end stuff at the moment.
Substitution for Napoli as Goran Pandev is replaced by Lorenzo Insigne. Can the 21-year-old make an impact from the bench?
Yellow Card Camilo Zúñiga
Panic in the Juventus box as Inler watches his strike cannon off two defenders for another corner before Bonucci is called upon from the next set piece to head off the line. Volume rising at the Stadio San Paolo.
Peluso has justified his selection over Asamoah so far as he produces another brilliant challenge to thwart Maggio down the right wing. Moments later Dzemaili whips a cross into the box and it is turned behind for a corner by the boot of Barzagli.
Stephan Lichtsteiner does well to burst past Inler down the right-hand side but his cross, intended for Giovinco, is excellently cleared by Campagnaro. The versatile Swiss international has put in another energetic shift this evening.
Chances at both ends as Inler forces Buffon into a save with a low left-footed drive before Peluso sends a fierce effort over De Sanctis' crossbar. Who can score that crucial third goal? Half an hour remaining.
MUCH BETTER FROM NAPOLI! Marek Hamsik looks to step into the limelight with a scorching drive from distance but his strike is well palmed away by Buffon. The home fans are beginning to get a little anxious here.
Mazzarri must be thinking about making a change because his side have been second-best since the break. Lorenzo Insigne is sent for a warm-up on the touchline.
Yellow Card Paolo Cannavaro
Paolo Cannavaro is not one to shirk a challenge and the Napoli captain is deservedly booked for a wild tackle on Lichtsteiner.
Disappointing from Pirlo as his cross-cum-shot curls wide of De Sanctis' goal.
Yellow Card Valon Behrami
Valon Behrami is the third player to be cautioned when he sends Peluso tumbling with a mistimed tackle. Good opportunity for Pirlo to whip the ball into the box here.
It's been a bright start to the second half for Conte's side with Napoli yet to purposefully venture into the opposition territory. I don't think Cavani has touched the ball yet.
When Zuniga is dispossessed by Lichtsteiner, Juventus launch a quick counterattack down the right wing with Giovinco and the forward's teasing cross is just too far for Vucinic to reach. That was a close shave for the home side.
Juventus are looking to slow down the tempo at the beginning of the first half with plenty of possession although Juan Zuniga needs to be alert to prevent Giovinco from latching onto Marchisio's long diagonal pass.
Miguel Angel Britos
Half-time substitution for Napoli as Miguel Britos is replaced by Blerim Dzemaili. Change of formation from Mazzarri and it seems his side now line up as a 4-3-1-2.
Antonio Conte will be pleased with how his side have performed so far and he knows his side only need to hang on for another 45 minutes to retain their six point advantage at the top of Serie A. Will Mazzarri risk it and throw on another striker in search of the three points? The second half is only moments away...
545 minutes and counting...can Cavani end his goal drought in the second half? A goal tonight may just be his most important in the Partenopei jersey.
What did you make of that first half? Can Mazzarri's side build on Inler's equaliser and secure all three points in the second half? Let me know your thoughts via Twitter @MaxBentley1.
HALF TIME: NAPOLI 1 - 1 JUVENTUS. A stunning strike from Gokhan Inler two minutes before half-time cancelled out a thumping header from Giorgio Chiellini on his return to the Bianconeri starting eleven. It's got all the elements of a top-of-the-table classic with both sides showing a willingness to attack with tempers beginning to boil over at the end of the half. 45 minutes in and we're all square!
45' + 2'
Yellow Card Edinson Cavani
Cavani joins Vidal in the referee's notebook after a tussle with Chiellini. The Uruguayan seemed to sling the Italian to the ground and can be fortunate not to have been shown a red there.
Yellow Card Arturo Vidal
Arturo Vidal is the first player in the book after a mistimed tackle on Inler.
Napoli have their tails up now and Zuniga nearly snatches another when he connects with a corner from the right, but his powerful drive is well blocked by Barzagli.
Assist Camilo Zúñiga
Goal Gökhan Inler
WHAT AN EQUALISER FROM GOKHAN INLER! Napoli restore parity just before the break with a goal of real quality. Zuniga finds Inler 20 yards out from goal and the Swiss international unleashes an absolute thunderbolt which flies past Buffon via a slight deflection from the head of Bonucci. Game on, 1-1!
Vucinic finds space on the edge of the Napoli area to look up and spray a pass across the box for Lichtsteiner, but the Swiss wing-back's curling left-footed strike bends just wide of De Sanctis' post.
Pirlo looks to use his x-ray vision to play a precise pass over the Napoli defence for Marchisio, but the Italian international is flagged offside. Both sides are looking a bit shaky at the moment with a few passes going astray. Five minutes until the break.
Sebastian Giovinco has dropped back into the Juventus midfield at the moment and is working hard to prevent Napoli from penetrating through the middle. Miguel Britos unleashes an ambitious strike from distance and watches it loop well wide of Buffon's goal.
Napoli are probing for an equaliser here and Buffon is called into the action for the first time when he calmly collects Hamsik's deflected strike. Can Mazzarri's side restore parity before the break?
Chiellini's goal is the difference between the two sides and the tough centre-back produces another telling contribution when his slide prevents Cavani from latching onto Hamsik's through ball.
Paolo Cannavaro is nearly made to pay a hefty price when he is dispossessed by Vidal deep inside his own half but the Partenopei captain sees his blushes spared when Vucinic miscontrols Giovinco's slide pass in the penalty area.
OUCH! Miguel Britos is down and requires medical attention after a clash of heads with his own teammate Inler. That one will certainly hurt in the morning!
The Partenopei look to attack down the right but Peluso does excellently on several occasions to prevent Maggio from delivering his cross. This Bianconeri defence have been solid so far and are demonstrating why they have conceded the least goals in the division.
Worrying signs for Juventus as Chiellini goes down after a tangle with Behrami. The domineering centre-back should be ok to continue though.
Napoli continue to press high up the field and Vucinic is the next to be narrowly ruled offside from Chiellini's ball over the top. The home side are certainly in the ascendency at the moment but they have yet to seriously threaten Buffon's goal.
Napoli cannot find a way to penetrate this Juventus defence so Gokhan Inler decides to unleash a piledriver from distance but the Swiss international can only drag his left-footed effort wide of Buffon's goal.
Napoli, like Juventus, look very threatening when going forward, but they just cannot break down this organised Juventus rearguard at the moment. There's certainly more goals in this one!
WHAT A MISS FROM VUCINIC! A long clearance from Buffon somehow manages to break Napoli's high defensive line and Vidal latches onto it, squaring the ball for Vucinic, unmarked, ten yards out, but the Montenegrin can only fire straight at De Sanctis. That really should have been 2-0!
Napoli are playing a very high defensive line and Giovinco nearly springs the offside trap to latch onto Marchisio's through ball but the forward is adjudged marginally offside. A risky game from the Napoli defence.
Electrifying start to this match and Juventus nearly double their lead when Vidal whips in a cross from the right, but Vucinic's glancing header back across goal bobbles narrowly past the post.
Napoli launch a quicker counterattack with Hamsik slipping the ball through for Cavani and the Uruguayan manages to shift the ball back for Pandev who is denied a shot on goal via a combination of Chiellini and Vidal. Good defending from the Old Lady.
Stephan Lichtsteiner is screaming for a penalty when he goes down under a challenge from Paolo Cannavaro but Daniele Orsato is not interested and waves play on. There didn't seem to be too much contact.
Napoli look to respond immediately when a cross from the right finds Juan Zuniga at the back post, but the Colombian rather scuffs his effort and Napoli clear.
Assist Andrea Pirlo
Goal Giorgio Chiellini
1-0 JUVENTUS AND WHAT A RETURN FOR GIORGIO CHIELLINI! Pirlo takes a corner short to Mirko Vucinic and when the ball is played back to him from the Montenegrin, Pirlo whips a glorious cross into the Napoli penalty area which is emphatically thumped home by the forehead of Chiellini. What a start for Antonio Conte's side as the Scudetto crown begins to swing in favour of Juventus!
GOOD CHANCE FOR JUVENTUS! Sebastian Giovinco voiced his opinion earlier this week that he feels he should be a regular for the Bianconeri and he almost silences his critics in style, bursting past Hugo Campagnaro with dazzling pace before his stinging left-footed effort is parried by Morgan De Sanctis and Mirko Vucinic cannot capitalise with his headed rebound.
Juventus look to settle with a short spell of possession but every touch they take is greeted by jeers from this vocal home crowd. Stephan Lichtsteiner drills in a low cross from the right but it is well cleared by Miguel Britos.
Bright start from the home side with Hamsik looking to break the deadlock with a strike from distance, but his left footed effort rises over the crossbar.
Christian Maggio attempts to bundle his way down the right touchline but he is halted by a strong challenge from Federico Peluso. Perhaps this right wing is an area that Mazzarri's side have highlighted as a Juventus weakness. Time will tell...
EARLY CHANCE FOR NAPOLI! Goran Pandev looks to make Giorgio Chiellini's return an unhappy one as he capitalises on an error from the centre-back before cutting the ball back for Marek Hamsik on the edge of the box, but the Slovakian can only blast his effort over the crossbar. That would have been some start!
Referee Daniele Orsato leads the teams onto the field to a loud chorus of cheers and a few flares too. Captains Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon lead the handshakes.
Remember you can join the debate during the game via Twitter. Which side will emerge victorious tonight? Let me know your thoughts @MaxBentley1.
What a superb sell-out atmosphere we have at the Stadio San Paolo with the home support looking to give their side that extra bit of momentum ahead of kickoff. Flags, banners, facepaints, balloons, you name it!
Napoli are on the longest current unbeaten streak in Serie A (9 games) but they have have not registered a win in five games in all competitions. With perhaps the most crucial three points of the season up for grabs tonight, can Mazzarri's side produce a match-winning performance when it matters the most? Kickoff is under ten minutes away!
Conte makes two changes to the side which comfortably beat Siena 3-0 with Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal regaining his spot in midfield, at the expense of Paul Pogba. Federico Peluso is given the nod over Kwadwo Asamoah on the left, meaning that Giorgio Chiellini makes his first start in three months in the heart of the Juve defence. Sebastian Giovinco retains his starting berth up front alongside Mirko Vucinic.
Mazzarri has a fully-fit squad to pick from and makes three changes to the side which drew with Udinese on Monday night with Christian Maggio, Juan Zuniga and Goran Pandev coming in to replace Giandomenico Mesto, Paolo Armero and Lorenzo Insigne. Edinson Cavani is looking to end a 500-minute goal drought.
JUVENTUS (3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Peluso; Giovinco, Vucinic.
NAPOLI (3-4-1-2): De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Britos; Maggio, Behrami, Inler, Zuniga; Hamsik; Cavani, Pandev.
Without any further ado, here are tonight's lineups...
Goals from Martin Caceres and Paul Pogba inspired Juventus to a 2-0 win over Napoli at the Juventus Stadium earlier this season but now it is time for the Bianconeri to travel to the Stadio San Paolo, a venue where they have not won in the league since October 2000. Can they end that run and extend their lead at the top of Serie A to an almost unassailable nine-point lead with victory tonight?
His opposing number Walter Mazzarri explained how his side have exceeded expectations this season and claims that he will be proud of his players despite the result. The 51-year-old said: "Now we’re competing with the best which is great and we are delighted to have come so far, to be competing at these levels and to be feared by everyone. So, however it goes tomorrow, it will be a success."
In the build-up to this match, Antonio Conte has vowed that his side will attack against the Partenopei and he has refuted claims that the Scudetto will be decided tonight. Speaking to reporters at yesterday's press conference, Conte stated: “Our style of play doesn’t change whether we play at home or away... We always look to play pro-active football."
Napoli's search for a first Scudetto title in 23 years comes to the fore this evening as Walter Mazzarri's side host current Serie A champions and table-toppers Juventus. With just six points separating these Italian giants, tonight's clash could prove decisive in determining where the league title ends up. They really don't get much bigger than this! Bringing you all the action from the Stadio San Paolo, my name is Max Bentley. Feel free to let me know your predictions and thoughts on the Scudetto race and this top-of-the-table clash via Twitter @MaxBentley1.
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