Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri claims his side deserve to be praised as they made northern rivals Juventus struggle in their home 1-1 draw, according to Mediaset Premium - via Football Italia

The Italian southerners had to deal with a list of injuries, including goalkeeper Pepe Reina who picked up a calf problem. This meant that Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael had to act as the replacement between the posts and make his first appearance of the season.

However, the Partenopei put in a convincing display against the Serie A leaders by pressuring their tough backline and maintaining possession. Marek Hamsik scored the equaliser and salvaged a precious point.

“When a team plays the way Napoli did tonight, a Coach can go home a little cross for the result, but certainly not disappointed. Rarely in Italy have we seen Juventus struggle so much,” the Napoli boss told Mediaset Premium.

"The game didn't start well according to plan after conceding seven minutes in. However, we did very well to avoid allowing Juventus any other real chances or counter-attacks.”

Rafael was quite nervous from the start which is what allowed Sami Khedira to score from his quick run. 

SSC Napoli v Juventus FC - Serie A

“Unfortunately, my choices were forced upon me. Two players requested substitutions, so they were not tactical decisions. Now we are in good shape."

The 58-year-old Neapolitan coach was asked about Gonzalo Higuain's first return to the San Paolo since he left for Juve. He mentioned how it was natural that the home fans jeered. 

SSC Napoli v Juventus FC - Serie A

“The jeers were inevitable for Gonzalo, they will pass with time. I am only disappointed I didn’t make these fans happy tonight, so we’ll try again on Wednesday.”

“Going behind to a side like Juventus could’ve easily distracted us, but instead we continued to play with quality, character, and style. It means this team is on the right track and if we adjust those little details, we can be great." 

SSC Napoli v Juventus FC - Serie A

Napoli will get set to take on Juventus once again on Wednesday night in the second-leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final. Sarri believes the team can overturn the 3-1 aggregate and qualify for the final.