Federico Gatti fired Juventus back to the top of Serie A, if only until Inter face Udinese, with the only goal of a 1-0 win over Napoli at the Allianz Stadium on Matchday 15 of the 2023/24 campaign, which could have all but ended the Neapolitans hopes of retaining the title.
The Partenopei are now 12 points behind the Bianconeri in fifth place and look more likely to be one of a number of clubs fighting it out for a Champions League qualification place, rather than being seen as legitimate challengers for the Scudetto.
Home advantage continues to underpin Juventus title charge
Even before Juventus wrestled a valuable three points away from a determined Napoli team in Turin, the Bianconeri had amassed more points at home than any other Serie A side and dropped just four all season – against Inter and Bologna.
The Partenopei not only brought the talents of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia north, but also an impressive recent record at the Allianz Stadium, having won on two of their last three visits and unbeaten since 2020.
Last season, an injury time winner from Giacomo Raspadori won a tight contest as Napoli were edging towards the title, but the Old Lady seems to have recovered the mental toughness of previous Massimiliano Allegri reigns and having opponents fear heading to Turin again.
Wojciech Szczesny shows title-winning quality
Although already a three-time Serie A winner, the elite level qualities of Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has often been called into question. The 33-year-old made his 250th Serie A appearance against Napoli, as countryman Piotr Zielinski also reached 350th, and is now one of the elder statesman of the Bianconeri squad.
Against the reigning champions the former Arsenal shot-stopper was at his best for most of the game. Tipping an early header around the post and then making an instinctive point-blank save from Giovanni Di Lorenzo just before half-time.
However, while his handling was assured in Turin, a poor chipped pass straight to a Partenopei attacker looked to have led to an equaliser through Victor Osimhen, but the striker was offside when the ball had been sent forward.
The Napoli fall from grace continues in Turin
While the Partenopei were freakishly consistent last season – dropping just four points from their opening 15 games – there is a serious risk of them failing to even secure Champions League qualification this term – maybe European football of any variety.
With six defeats already so far contributing to 21 lost points, wins for Fiorentina and Bologna on Matchday 15 would see Napoli end the weekend outside of the European qualification places, with Lazio and Atalanta also within touching distance.
If Rudi Garcia wasn’t the answer, it doesn’t appear that replacement coach Walter Mazzarri is either and if he cannot reverse their current form, could oversee the worst title defence in recent memory.