Napoli vs Juventus - Higuain set for first return to Napoli as Juventus chase title boost

Posted Saturday, April 01, 2017 by PA

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri insists Gonzalo Higuain relaxed and working well ahead of Napoli return - Allegrimade a "professional" choice to leave Napoli for the Serie A champions as the Argentinian prepares for a sour San Paolo return.

Napoli threatened to beat Juve to the Scudetto last season, thanks chiefly to former Real Madrid striker Higuain, who scored a record-equalling 36 league goals.

Most Azzurri supporters were appalled, therefore, when their idol was allowed to move to Turin and bolster Juve's already fearsome squad for 90 million euros in the summer.

He has since been called a traitor and a mercenary by his erstwhile worshippers, who accused him of chasing money over the undeniably genuine love of the fans.

To add insult to injury, Higuain scored the winner in Juve's 2-1 victory over Napoli back in October.

Ahead of his first of two returns to Naples inside four days - the rival clubs meet again in the second leg of the Coppa Italia - Allegri said Higuain was relaxed and ready to help the Bianconeri take all three points.

He told a pre-match press conference: "Higuain made a professional decision and that must be respected. He's calm and has worked well during the week.

"We haven't had a chance to talk about his longer-term future with the club, but we will have plenty of time to do so, without any pressure."

Of Sunday's game, he added: "Tomorrow we will need to win three more points to put towards our Scudetto bid, and then on Wednesday we have a big knockout game to get through.

"If we get through this match then we will be well-placed to push on and win Serie A.

"We will need to play a really good game, knowing that we will have to keep it up across 95 minutes if we are to get past a great team like Napoli."

Juve are entering a difficult stage of the campaign, with a home meeting with Chievo following the double-header against Napoli and preceding a Champions League quarter-final clash with Barcelona.

"Napoli versus Juve will be a big test - especially as we have to prepare ourselves for future matches," said Allegri. "But we will worry about Barcelona another time.

"Right now we're fully focused on Napoli and we must not lose our concentration."

Allegri is definitely without defender Medhi Benatia and winger Marko Pjaca, who underwent surgery on cruciate ligament damage on Friday, ruling him out of action for at least six months.

The participation of Higuain's striking colleagues Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala is in doubt, too, with the tall Croatian expected to get the nod.

Lorenzo Tonelli remains sidelined for Napoli, who must run the rule over Allan and Piotr Zielinski.

Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri won the 2016 Panchina d'Oro - coach of the year - award this week, but Allegri was quick to remind reporters he voted for someone else.

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Tuscan tactician said: "Sarri deserves that award, he's done great work with Empoli and Napoli.

"But if I remember rightly, I voted for Eusebio Di Francesco of Sassuolo..."



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