Can Napoli challenge Juventus under Carlo Ancelotti?
Juventus has had its way in Serie A for seven straight seasons. On each occasion, the Old Lady secured the Scudetto with relative ease. Napoli and Roma have been the closest challengers. Inter and AC Milan, two giants of Italian football, have both found it difficult to even obtain a top-four spot.
Adding Cristiano Ronaldo to a team which has dominated Serie A is similar to hitting an opponent already down. But the Juventus faithful care little. If anything, they want more. Next on their agenda is conquering the continent.
For Napoli, coming up short in recent times has not been through lack of trying. After pushing the Bianconeri all the way under Maurizio Sarri last campaign, the Partenopei opted for a manager with vast experience. Carlo Ancelotti has won trophies everywhere he's been. The 59-year-old is among the very few coaches to have lifted silverware in all the top five European leagues.
AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich; Ancelotti has triumphed. He went there, saw and conquered. Now the Italian is ready to do it again, this time with the Naples-based side. His biggest challenge is to knock Juve off their perch.
So far, Ancelotti is keeping pace with the reigning champions. Early results suggest Gli Azzurri are equipped to fight until the end. The big question is, will they be rewarded this time around?
A criticism levelled against Napoli's previous boss, Sarri, is he has never won a trophy. Such inexperience is thought to have contributed to his capitulation last season. Ancelotti is the opposite in that regard. In fact, he tops Massimiliano Allegri, the mastermind in the Turin dugout.
Napoli's mission is tough. Their biggest threat has stocked up on weaponry. Having signed from Madrid in July, Ronaldo has found scoring boots after failing to net in his first three Serie A games. A brace against Sassuolo secured a 2-1 victory in the fourth match. Another strike in the 2-0 win away to Frosinone showed CR7 is not about to stop.
Juventus have also proven capable without Ronaldo. Playing at the Mestalla in the Champions League, they defeated Valencia 2-0 despite their Portuguese talisman receiving a red card with 61 minutes still remaining.
In Juve's most recent outing at home to Bologna, goals from Paulo Dybala and Blaise Matuidi recorded another 2-0 victory to maintain their season's 100% start.
Ancelotti's men are not far behind. Though only drawing their opening Champions League game against Red Star Belgrade, they have lost just once in total this campaign. The Partenopei have scored three goals in each of last two matches. Frontmen Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens are both in top form. The former has struck five times and made one assist in six league appearances.
Gli Azzurri currently sit second in Serie A, with 15 points from a possible 18. They are breathing down Juventus' neck, waiting for any slip-up. The two contenders meet later today.
Should Napoli leave the home of the champions with a win, they can begin to dream. Their chances are slim, though, as the Bianconeri are determined to retain top position.