12.02.2016 18:30 - in: Serie A S

      Three key #JuveNapoli duels

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      As first meets second in Turin, Juventus.com identifies where Saturday evening’s crucial league clash between the Bianconeri and Partenopei may be won and lost
      Barzagli vs. Higuain

      Andrea Barzagli’s settled run in the side this term has been a significant factor in the Bianconeri boasting the best defensive record in Serie A (this term), conceding just 15 goals in the opening 24 matchdays. The 34-year-old oozes calm and composure whatever the opposition and his big game experience represents an enormous asset to Juve’s rearguard in dealing with the division’s most potent attacking unit in Napoli on Saturday evening.

      Barzagli has posted some impressive statistics this season, not least the 66.7 percent of 50-50 challenges that he has won (a joint-high shared with (the) Daniele Rugani and the injured Giorgio Chiellini). The Tuscan will be looking to have the upper hand over the Partenopei’s forwards at Juventus Stadium, particularly the league’s leading scorer Gonzalo Higuain.

      The Argentine striker’s 24 goals in as many Serie A fixtures means that he is firmly on track to beat his previous record of 27 in a single league campaign (in 2009/10 with Real Madrid). Higuain’s accuracy (he has hit the target with 44 per cent of his 133 efforts) means that Barzagli and company will need to keep shooting opportunities at an absolute premium, while they will also need to reckon with his strong physical presence and tough tackling (he has won 91.7 per cent of challenges) in order to subdue Napoli’s talisman.

      Marchisio vs. Hamsik

      Marchisio vs. Hamsik is more than just a struggle for supremacy in the middle of the park. It’s also a battle between two influential, long-serving leaders, who dictate the way that their respective sides tick both with and without the ball.

      The careers of Claudio Marchisio and Marek Hamsik mirror one another to a certain extent in that both players have become better all-round midfielders after starting off as more attack-minded with a propensity to score with reasonable regularity.

      Marchisio in particular has taken on greater defensive responsibilities, sitting deepest out of the midfield three that Massimiliano Allegri often deploys. Many a Bianconeri attack begins at the feet of the 30-year-old, who has picked out 1,040 passes already in just 16 appearances.

      Unsurprisingly, Hamsik has distributed a greater number of balls (1,821) given that he has played considerably more matches (24), but the 28-year-old operates further forward (Jorginho occupies the holding midfield role) and tops the Partenopei’s passing charts in the attacking half of the pitch (1,259). Hamsik has also created the most amount of goalscoring opportunities in the top-flight this term (57 – including six assists).

      If Marchisio shades the Slovakian with a marginally more accurate distribution rate (89.6 and 87 per cent respectively), it is the Napoli player who tends to win a greater number of tackles, even though both boast lofty percentage stakes (73 and 78.1 respectively).

      Dybala vs. Koulibaly

      The fact that Juventus and Napoli will both be looking to their respective Argentine frontmen for attacking inspiration is just one of Saturday night’s many sub-plots and one that has come about thanks to a brilliant first six months from Paulo Dybala in the black and white.

      Since arriving from Palermo in the summer, the 22-year-old has established himself as his side’s most prolific goalscorer, notching 13 in the league and 16 in all competitions at an extremely consistent rate. Indeed, La Joya has never gone more than two whole games without finding the net so far this term.

      Dybala has also proved that he has much more to his locker than only goals, having provided a team-high eight assists already in Serie A alone, while he also leads the way in terms of whipping in crosses (142) and creating the second highest number of scoring chances in the league (56).

      Looking to keep the Argentina international as quiet as possible on the night will be Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegalese centre-half plays to the left of defensive partner Raul Albiol and so will most likely be the man coming up directly against Dybala, who tends to operate just to the right of his strike partners.

      Koulibaly, who has made his first few appearances for Senegal’s national side this season, has contributed considerably to an overall rearguard effort that has seen Napoli concede the second fewest number of goals in Serie A (19). The 24-year-old has won 86 per cent of his tackles, while also blocking 11 shots and intercepting 48 opposition passes, both of which are team-highs.

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