Beauty versus The Beast: Napoli and Juventus perfectly primed for colossal clash of styles

Victor Osimhen Bremer Napoli Juventus 2022-23 GFXGetty

Eight league wins in a row. All achieved without conceding a single goal. Safe to say, then, that Juventus are back? Well, not exactly.

Some people have not really been sold on the positive spin being put on Juve's winning streak. Some people are actually quite upset about it.

“All the journalists, former players and friends are obviously saying 'Juve are back', but back to what, being rubbish?" Antonio Cassano fumed on BoboTV earlier this week. "They might even win everything [this season], but aside from the game against Lazio (on November 13), they have been dreadful."

Cassano is obviously a controversial character. He's hardly immune to occasionally talking rubbish himself. He does have a point here, though. Juve haven't performed particularly impressively of late.

Nobody connected with the club cares, though. Least of all Massimiliano Allegri. Before this flawless run began, he was a coach under a colossal amount of pressure. Indeed, were it not for Juve's financial problems, coupled with the length and size of his contract, he would have been sacked in early October.

Massimiliano Allegri Juventus Benfica 2022-23 GFXGetty

Juve had won only three of their opening nine Serie A fixtures and suffered a humiliating 2-0 loss at Maccabi Haifa that effectively ended their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League.

Allegri needed wins, then, and he, understandably, didn't care at all about how they were achieved.

Of course, it's not as if he's ever been particularly concerned by aesthetics, anyway. He's openly admitted that he would rather have a winning team than a "pretty" one. "It's a matter of taste," he quite justifiably reasoned only last year.

So, with so many key players out injured at the start of the season (Federico Chiesa and Paul Pogba were long-term absentees, while Angel Di Maria and Adrien Rabiot were in and out of the starting line-up), Allegri focused on getting his backline in order, and has undeniably done a spectacular job in that regard.

Juve have now kept 12 clean sheets in Serie A – only one side in history, Cagliari in 1966-67, has ever managed more (13) after 17 rounds. The defence has proven the foundation for a remarkable run of results that has propelled the Old Lady from eighth to second in the Serie A standings – just seven points behind Napoli ahead of Friday's meeting at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

All of this has been achieved amid a constant state of chaos at the club that saw the entire board resign as a result of an ongoing investigation into false accounting and communication, which only makes the revival all the more admirable.

"The club is transmitting tranquillity," he said last month. "We just have to win games." And, to Allegri's immense credit, that's exactly what they've done.

Massimiliano Allegri Juventus 2022-23 GFXGetty

He insists that Juve's goal remains a top-four finish so as to secure qualification for next season's Champions League, which is obviously essential given their economic situation.

But, again, Cassano is having none of that, claiming it's "a total lie that disgusts me. He knows full well that Juve and Inter have the strongest squads in the league and they must challenge for the Scudetto. I don’t mind a difference of ideas, but if you take me for a ride then I will say it’s disgusting."

Luciano Spalletti didn't go quite so far when pressed on the matter but did echo Cassano's claim that Allegri was being more than a little disingenuous.

“I understand that it’s convenient for Max to pass Juve off as a supporting player, but for a Juve always stuffed with champions, it’s impossible for them to hide from the role of favourites," the Napoli boss told reporters on Thursday.

“It’s pointless to wear a hat or a fake beard. Certain investments only pay off by challenging for the Scudetto and the Champions League – not for fourth place."

Spalletti is clearly trying to take some of the pressure off his players, who have put themselves in an excellent position to win what would be just the third title in the club's history. We're still two games away from the midway point of the season and yet Napoli have already been crowned winter champions, having lost just one game in dropping only seven points so far this season.

What's more, they're playing a thrilling brand of football that has also made the rest of Europe sit up and take notice thanks to their progression to the knockout stage of the Champions League as winners of a group containing Liverpool, Ajax and Rangers.

Again, the contrast with Juve couldn't have been clearer. Not only were the Bianconeri dumped out of Europe by Benfica, they exited having subjected everyone who had the misfortune to watch their games to a dire style of play.

The results have since improved, of course, but their football really hasn't, as Spalletti was also quick to highlight in his pre-match press conference.

"Allegri fits the Juve motto that ‘winning is all that matters’," he said. "Here in Naples we’re all about heart and soul.

"Maradona played here, won here and in winning here he showcased how beautiful football can be. We can’t play our football without a nod to that aesthetic legacy."

Luciano Spalletti Napoli 2022-23 GFXGetty

However, Spalletti has also been at pains to point out that this isn't a beauty contest. Nor do they had out major prizes in January, and defeat at home to Juve would blow the title race wide open, as it would also offer AC Milan the chance to draw to within four points of the leaders.

Indeed, there has been an ominous sense of inevitability about Juve's rise towards the top of the table. They still have their injury issues – Pogba is still not fit to return to action, while Dusan Vlahovic, Leonardo Bonucci and Juan Cuadrado are also set to miss out on Friday – but the Bianconeri have been in this position many times before, and they always seem to find a way to get a result. Indeed, Juve are unbeaten in eight Serie A matches when facing the league leaders.

Napoli, of course, have their own grounds for optimism. No club has more victories over the Old Lady. They've also won their last three home games against Juve and, on Friday night, will be roared on by a vociferous crowd dreaming of a first Scudetto since 1990.

It promises to be an epic encounter of contrasting styles. The best attack in Serie A is going up against its best defence. It's Beauty versus the Beast, and fans of fairy tales will be hoping that the former prevails.

Allegri, though, has never had much time for romance; he cares only about results. If he gets a positive one in Naples, Juve really will be back, whether Cassano & Co. want to admit it or not.

Who is the best No.9 in the world?

6192 Votes

Thanks for voting.

Results will be shared soon.

Who is the best No.9 in the world?

  • 18%Karim Benzema
  • 38%Erling Haaland
  • 5%Harry Kane
  • 12%Robert Lewandowski
  • 10%Kylian Mbappe
  • 17%Victor Osimhen
6192 Votes