Massimiliano Allegri demands big push for points before halfway mark in Serie A

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has challenged his players to rectify the club’s wretched recent results against rivals Napoli to move top of the Serie A table.

Juve have lost five of their past seven league meetings with the reigning champions, including a 5-1 thrashing in January, but are favourites for Friday evening’s clash at Allianz Stadium.

The in-form Bianconeri sit second in the table and will climb above leaders Inter Milan for at least 24 hours by registering an 11th victory of the season.

Fifth-placed Napoli are struggling to mount a title defence and, having last month reappointed former boss Walter Mazzarri after sacking Rudi Garcia, slipped 11 points adrift of Inter following a 3-0 home loss to them on Sunday.

“Tomorrow will be very tough,” Allegri told a press conference.

“Napoli stayed in the game against Inter until the second goal and we’ve only beaten them once in our last seven meetings – that’s something we need to put right.

“They’re a dangerous side away from home and have picked up 17 points on the road already.”

Juventus are just two points behind Inter, with whom they drew 1-1 on November 26, following a nine-match unbeaten run.

Allegri wants a minimum of six points from Juve’s next five fixtures to ensure the club reach the halfway point of the campaign in a stronger position than last term.

“This is a six-pointer – we have five games left before we reach the midway point of the season and they’ll all be difficult,” said Allegri, whose side finished a disappointing 2022-23 campaign in seventh position.

“Our target is to finish the first half of the campaign with more points than we did last term, when we had 38.

“We hope to achieve our target but we mustn’t take it for granted.

“Part of this job involves dealing with the pressure but we have to remember the league doesn’t finish tomorrow. There’s still a long way to go.”

Mazzarri, who initially managed Napoli between 2009 and 2013, beat Atalanta 2-1 in the first match of his second spell before the resounding loss to Inter.

The 62-year-old hopes his team can kick-start a revival by beating one of their fiercest rivals.

Walter Mazzarri rejoined Napoli last month

“Juventus v Napoli is a match that we know well because of the special sensations it generates and the importance of two teams that have been protagonists of the championship in recent years,” he told a press conference.

“We are playing against an opponent who is doing very well and there is little to add about the depth of the match.

“We go there as Italian champions and we want to highlight the progress that the boys are making.

“If we look at the squads, I don’t think there is as much of a difference as the league table says. This is also true compared to Inter.

“Unfortunately in football there are also moments and this is not a brilliant period for Napoli, especially in relation to the great last season.

“In football sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a change, it’s a question of trust but also of luck.

“There are moments which are going badly but a positive episode can change the wind.”