This should be an interesting little matchup for Napoli. Both sides have a lot to prove this season, and both sides are coming off flat, disappointing performances after Udinese came away with a 2-0 loss to Juventus that probably should have finished a lot worse than it did.
Zebras On The Rise?
Udinese have become one of the media's darlings during the last few months, riding a wave of excitement over the appointment of Andrea Stramaccioni and some solid-looking transfers to become the dark horse candidate for a lot of people to finish in European places. The results haven't matched expectations in the young Serie A campaign, but Udinese fans still have a lot of hope for success still to come.
Stramaccioni is trying to prove that he has what it takes to be a leading manager in Serie A after an experience with Inter Milan that could, kindly, be called a mixed bag. His 3-5-2 meshes nicely with the existing personnel at Udinese when he arrived, and the reinforcements brought in this summer only makes his squad better and deeper. This probably isn't going to be a side that sets records or inspires movies, but they have a chance to be a very solid team that's capable of achieving their goals.
Udinese will be without Simone Scuffet, their starlet goalkeeper who Italians are excited about for the future of the national team. They're also missing longtime defensive stalwart Maurizio Domizzi and new wide man Albert Riera, though those losses will likely be felt less keenly. Still, any team that has Antonio Di Natale and Luis Muriel starting up top has to be taken seriously, as those two can do a whole lot of damage on their own if they're playing well.
Sing Another Song, Please
For Napoli, they have a whole lot of egg to get off their face after their embarrassing loss to Chievo last weekend. Yes, they came from behind to trounce Sparta Prague on Thursday, but that's the Europa League. As evidenced by the paltry attendance for the match (if there were actually 10,000 people there, then I'm the King of England), the fanbase doesn't care about the Europa League. What the fanbase cares about is Serie A and the scudetto, and on that front Napoli have a lot of ground to make up after last weekend.
That task will be a little tougher without Jorginho, but both of Napoli's new midfielders, Jonathan De Guzman and David Lopez, have impressed in their brief cameos in the side so far (very brief in the case of Lopez), so dealing with life without Jorginho shouldn't be as bad as it would have been last season. Just as long as Rafa can keep himself from starting Walter Gargano, anyways.
At least Faouzi Ghoulam is back, though it seems unlikely for the moment that Rafa will be sticking Camilo Zuniga at right back now that he's been freed from the left. That means more Christian Maggio, which... yay, more Christian Maggio. I guess. Whatever.
In any event, Napoli have to come out with a lot more verve and fight than they have of late. An early goal on the goal against Udi is a huge must, and a loss is completely unacceptable at this stage. A draw might be OK, depending on how the performance rides out, but the goal has to be three points. Napoli need to win as many matches as they can to keep themselves in the title race with Juve and Roma, and give them a shot at their first Serie A win in a quarter century come the end of the campaign.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Udinese: Karnezis; Hertaux, Danilo, Bubnjic; Kone, Badu, Fernandes, Allan, Pasquale; Muriel, Di Natale
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Inler, De Guzman; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain
At a glance
Udinese: 10th; 1W, 0D, 1L; 2 GS, 2 GA; League Form: LW
Napoli: 12th; 1W, 0D 1L; 2 GS, 2 GA; League Form: LW
The match will start Sunday at 9:00 PM CET/12:00 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Premium Calcio 1 in Italy, BT Sport 1 n the UK, and beIn Sports Connect (online steaming) in America. Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter.