Gameweek three of Serie A brings us the match between two bitter rivals in Italy as Juventus host Napoli. Juventus – under the new management of Andrea Pirlo – are going through a short transitional period and are still trying to settle in his new system. Gattuso’s side, on the other hand, are coming off a 6-0 demolition of Genoa and are brimming with confidence. In the following tactical analysis, we will look onto how both the sides will set-up and how they go by their tactics.

Expected Lineups

Juventus lined-up in a 4-4-2 last week but in possession played a 3-5-2. Morata and Ronaldo led the line but with Morata being ineffective we could see Pirlo shifting to the line-up he played with on the first matchday. Arthur Melo will make an appearance instead of the suspended Adrien Rabiot.

Juventus: Wojciech Szczęsny, Danilo, Leonardo Bonnuci, Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado, Arthur Melo, Weston McKennie, Gianluca Frabotta, Aaron Ramsey, Dejan Kulusevski, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Napoli will line-up in a 4-2-3-1 with Eljif Elmas replacing the injured Lorenzo Insigne. Diego Demme is likely to replace Piotr Zieliński, who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.

Napoli: Alex Meret, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas, Kalidou Koulibaly, Elseid Hysaj, Fabián Ruiz, Diego Demme, Hirving Lozano, Dries Mertens, Eljif Elmas, Victor Osimhen

Fluidity in formations

Juventus will line up in a 3-5-2 on paper but it is bound to change during defensive and the offensive phase of the game. In Pirlo’s UEFA Pro license thesis on his theory of football, he mentioned that in possession he either likes to play a 3-2-5 or a 2-3-5 formation. He wants his full-backs or wing-backs, depending on the formation, to push forward and join the attackers.

Along with that, he wants one of his central midfielders, (Aaron Ramsey in this case) to join the two forwards. During the defensive phase of the game, Pirlo likes his team to switch to a more conventional back four with another line of four in front of them with the two forwards defending from the front.

Juventus drop back to 4-4-2 while defending.
Juventus shift to a back three with a 3-2-5 formation while attacking.

Napoli, though not as much as Juventus, also like to move around with their formation during the match. On paper, Gattuso is most likely to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation. Looking at the footage from their recent matches, it was observed that in their half, they like to switch to a 4-4-2 with the attacking midfielder and the striker defending from the front.

When the ball is higher up the pitch or they are in possession, they switch to 4-2-3-1 with Mertens dropping back in that central attacking midfielder role.

Napoli in a 4-4-2 formation while defending.


You’ve got a much higher chance of scoring when you win the ball in the opponent’s half and attack from there. Both managers know this and set up their press to achieve this. They both follow a similar pressing style but the difference is that Napoli have a better structure than Juventus. This comes down to the fact that Pirlo has just taken over and Juve are getting accustomed to his system, whereas Gattuso has had much more time to work on his system with Napoli.

When we look at the pressing intensity of both teams in the last two matches via passes allowed per defensive actions (PPDA), we can observe that both like to press. Juventus averaged 9.95 in the metric whereas Napoli averaged 13.5.  League’s average during the first two sets of matches is 11.35.

They want their team to regain possession of the lost ball immediately. For this, they defend right from the front and implement a preventive cover to gain the control of the area to continue to occupy the offensive half of the pitch and not run backwards.

The objective of the first player is not recovering the ball but to force the opposition into mistakes.

We can observe here that Napoli are pressing high up the pitch in Genoa’s half and successfully regain the ball back.

Again we see the Naples-based club pressing from the front. Mertens has blocked the passing option whereas Insigne ensures that the opponent doesn’t pass to his full-back, leaving him no option but to go long.

Juventus following a similar pressing pattern and isolating their opponent. All the short passing options are well blocked and the ball-carrier is forced to go long.
Morata and Ronaldo are both very high up the pitch with Kulusevki, Ramsey and McKennie (not in the graphic) covering behind them.

Juventus will utilise the flanks

As it was earlier mentioned in this analysis, Pirlo likes his wing-backs/full-backs to move forward, so we will see most of their play going through the flanks. He wants both of them to push high up the pitch together. This will allow Juventus to force the opposing full-backs to make a choice: either they remain wide and concede space in the centre, or they tighten and will always arrive late on the switch of the flanks. 

When the opposing full-backs remain wide to counter their wing-backs, one of the forwards can easily run behind into the half-spaces. When the opposing full-backs stay narrow, it gives the attacking wing-backs ample space to run and attack into.

We can see that both the wing-backs have pushed forward and Juve have the numerical advantage in the final third as they have switched to a front-five in possession.
Here, the full-back stays wide and closes down Cuadrado. This opens up the half-space for Kulusevski to run behind him.
The game was concentrated on the right-hand side just before Bonnuci made a wonderful switch. Frambotta stayed high and wide and received the ball in a lot of space.

Napoli’s intelligent midfield

The Naples-based club is blessed with some of the finest midfield talents in their squad. Even if their midfield maestro Allan left for Everton this season, they still have the likes of Fabian Ruiz, Piotr Zieliński, Diego Demme and Elmas. Ruiz and Zielinksi are more likely to start in the midfield two with Elmas playing as the left-mid for the Injured Insigne. Ruiz and Zieliński bossed the midfield in their last outing versus Genoa. They both can win the ball back for the team, make intelligent runs, create space for other players, and play incisive passes.

Their midfield connection will be very important to break Juventus’ high press. Even though we predict Gattuso to come out and play attacking football, we wouldn’t be shocked if he plays Demme as the holding midfielder instead of one of the attackers to play safe. Demme provides them with extra protection and with Juventus playing with a front-five in possession, he can provide the subsequent cover.

Zieliński makes a blind backward run behind the opponent to receive the ball, meanwhile Fabian runs to occupy the space left by him. The midfielder runs to close down Zienliski leaving Fabian in a huge gap. Zieliński passes to Fabian and he turns to attack the goal.
Fabian makes another blind run behind the midfielder’s shoulder to find himself in space. He quickly releases the ball to Lozano on the wing.

Juventus’s narrow front three

We have discussed earlier that Juve’s wing-backs/full-backs like to push forward. This makes the front three (the two attackers and the third midfielder, usually Ramsey) narrow. Ronaldo stays high up the pitch most of the time but also drifts left at times. With a narrow front three, it becomes easier to put pressure on the centre-backs as they have a numerical advantage. They are told to stay close to each other and make quick passes to open up the game.

Juventus also have the “Ronaldo” factor with them. His ability to finish from the most difficult angles or make those intelligent runs make him one of the best in the world. He has taken more shots than anyone in Serie A with 13. It will be an interesting battle between him and Napoli’s star centre-back Koulibaly.

The front-three stay close to each other, meanwhile the wing-backs push forward.
Ramsey releases Ronaldo with a through ball. He went on to hit the crossbar.


As we saw during Juve’s last outing, Pirlo’s men are still getting used to the new system and it will take them some time to perfect his philosophy. On the other hand, Gattuso has held the reigns for more than nine months now, and his side looks a bit more settled. Napoli is on a high with two wins from two and the striker Osimhen has also started well.

Napoli will be hoping to continue their promising start and will be aiming for those UEFA Champions League places. Juventus will be looking to bounce back from their draw versus Roma last week. We are set for another exciting encounter in Italy.