Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will captain the title holders into a table-topper against visiting Serie A leaders Napoli tomorrow, which he described as a clash between maturity and keenness.
“We have to make our experience count on Saturday night and use it to negate Napoli’s intensity and enthusiasm,” the 38-year-old Buffon said.
“After a long spell out of the limelight, they are back at the top of the table and they fully deserve it.
“Should Napoli win at the weekend, they will open up a sizeable lead over us with just 13 games to play, while for us it will cap off our magical run in style and give us a huge boost for the rest of the campaign.”
The Naples side are two points ahead of Juve, topping the standings on 56 points from 24 games and boasting the league’s best attack as Argentine ace Gonzalo Higuain scored 24 of their 53 goals.
Another Argentine, rising star Paulo Dybala, is Juve’s top scorer on 13 goals, while Buffon leads the best defence package, with 15 conceded.
The Bianconeri come from a club best-ever run of 14 consecutive victories and are three shy of Inter Milan’s record of 17 in the 2006-07 season.
Napoli also broke an own record winning their last eight outings, with Higuain on target eight times in the last six.
“I hope to keep scoring, which will certainly help the team to go as high as possible,” Higuain said. “I am calm ahead of the big match, I have played football for more than 10 years.
“It is all up to us. We must stay calm, keep down the euphoria, which can hurt you. We have to keep our feet on the ground; if we should have a bad moment, we must then get stronger than before.”
Higuain added he enjoys being likened to living legend Diego Maradona, who helped Napoli win their two titles in 1987 and 1990.
“He did a lot here,” Higuain said of his compatriot. “Everyone loves him; getting close to what he did would be a wonderful thing.”
Pondering how to contain the Argentine, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri is likely to add a defender to his usual three-man package as both mainstay Giorgio Chiellini and Martin Caceres are injured.
Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri is enjoying the good form of his squad and denied that he would settle for a draw.
“I always play to win, it won’t be Saturday’s clash to change my mind or the mind of our team,” the coach said. “We are going to face this match aware that our opponents are really strong. We might suffer but we will perform a match with the right mentality, with a humble attitude and also to play with grit.”
A draw, however, would allow Napoli to lift the title in case they finish level with Juve in mid-May, having won 2-1 in Naples in late September as the Bianconeri went through an initial rough patch.
Ten points clear of the top, meanwhile, third-place Fiorentina close the weekend late Sunday at home to Inter, who sit one point behind on 45.
Roma (44) also eye the third available Champions League berth as they visit struggling Carpi Friday.
The round opens as Lazio welcome Verona at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, the venue which on Sunday will host the Italy v England rugby match in the Six Nations Championship.
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