Juventus 2.00, the draw 3.35, Napoli 3.65
Antonio Conte had no intention of playing the party pooper. “I want the lads to go out and celebrate as they should,” said the Juventus manager after his team completed their unbeaten, title-winning season with a 3-1 win over Atalanta. “This taste of victory must be truly savoured, it needs to remain indelible in our minds so we can have the desire to come back and live more moments like this one.”
He was also bowing to the inevitable. Even Conte – as respected as he is by his team – could not have held back the tide of emotion that accompanied Juventus’s first Scudetto since the 2006 Calciopoli scandal. Hundreds of thousands of fans flooded the streets of Turin for that evening’s open-top bus parade, an event that served not only as a title celebration but also a farewell to Alessandro Del Piero following his final home game for the club.
Conte accompanied the players on that triumphant procession and on to Cacao nightclub for a team dinner and party. But he would be one of the first to slip away – leaving the establishment at 2.30am while many players lingered on until well past sunrise. As much as he wanted them to enjoy their moment, Conte’s mind was already onto the next challenge: planning for Sunday’s Coppa Italia final against Napoli.
Only Milan – between Sulley Muntari’s ‘ghost goal’ in the league, then the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg in which they led 2-1 after 90 minutes, but lost 4-3 on aggregate after an extra-time equaliser – have come closer to ending Juventus’s unbeaten run this season than Napoli. The Partenopei led Conte’s side 3-1 with 70 minutes gone at the Stadio San Paolo last November, before allowing Juventus back to 3-3.
Remarkably, given the scoreline, Napoli were missing their most prolific striker that day, Edinson Cavani having failed a late fitness test. The Uruguayan, whose tally of 32 goals in all competitions this season is just one shy of his haul from last term, will be back in the starting line-up on Sunday, having missed his team’s final league game of the season, against Siena, through suspension.
Who will be alongside him remains to be seen, the manager Walter Mazzarri facing a tough decision between Ezequiel Lavezzi – a starter for most of the season, but expected to leave this summer – and Goran Pandev – who has been in excellent form and scored twice in the meeting at San Paolo. Mazzarri’s own future beyond this game is uncertain: the manager is reportedly seeking assurances that investment to help the squad compete for even bigger trophies will be forthcoming.
Conte is expected to keep faith with the formula he has applied throughout this cup run – utilising two players who have featured only sparingly in the league this season: Marco Storari in goal, and Del Piero up front. While the latter has not been prolific this season, he has scored a number of important goals – including two in this competition, against Roma and Milan. Should you fancy a sentimental punt, he’s available to get on the scoresheet at 3.50.
Whether as a result of such changes to the line-up or some other cause, Juventus’s cup games this season have been consistently open affairs. Each has featured at least three goals, as have all of their last six matches against Napoli. In such a context, odds of 2.15 on more than 2.50 being scored this weekend seems rather generous. A punt on Cavani to be among the scorers also seems sensible at 3.5. He has found the net in three of Napoli’s four Coppa Italia games so far.