Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri is yet to decide whether or not he will unleash Gonzalo Higuain against his former club Napoli on Friday night.
The Bianconeri head to the Stadio San Paolo in the unusual position of having to play catch-up with their great Italian rivals, who lead Juve by four points and the race for the Scudetto by two.
Higuain, who left Naples for Turin for 90 million euros in July 2016, has been effective against the Azzurri since switching allegiances, scoring the winner in the clubs’ first meeting after he moved.
But this week surgery on a broken bone in his left hand threatened to rule him out of the Friday night showdown, although Allegri is pondering taking a risk given the importance of getting a good result.
Of his Argentinian striker, who has scored five goals in his last four league appearances, Allegri said: “I’m aware that Higuain’s hand still hurts, but let’s see how he’s feeling later today and tomorrow.
“We’re trying to stay confident about his chances of playing.
“We’ll have to wait and see who will play up front. Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa are the only players who are 100 per cent fit at the moment, but we’ll see.”
Allegri must also bear Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Olympiacos in mind when he selects his team to face Napoli. Should Juve slip up in Greece, Sporting Lisbon could beat them into the last 16.
“Napoli are doing extraordinary things in the league this season and it will be a serious test for us ahead of the match against OIympiacos,” continued Allegri at his pre-match press conference.
“Playing every three days is great. That’s what football at this level is all about.
“I’d much rather my team were playing matches than just be training.”
On Napoli, who have blazed a trail in Serie A, scoring 35 goals in 14 games and avoiding defeat, Allegri said: “To beat them would be significant, but we’re focused on putting in a top performance.
“It’s the small details that decide these big matches. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes has a better chance of winning.
“The best defence normally wins the Scudetto. Maybe we won’t have the best defence this year, but we still want to win the league.”
Napoli, who are without striker Arkadiusz Milik and defender Faouzi Ghoulam, can pull seven points clear of Juve with a home win but midfielder Piotr Zielinski is trying to remain grounded.
He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “In the event of a win, being seven points above Juve will not mean the Scudetto race is over. Juve are a great team and even if we win they will be able to recover.
“If Higuain does not play then someone else strong will come in.
“The city cares a lot about Napoli v Juventus, it’s a special match. We will do our best to win for the fans.”
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