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Napoli vs. Udinese, Coppa Italia: Napoli begin their trophy defense

With Rafa Benitez set to field his b-team, it could well be passion that decides who progresses.

Dino Panato/Getty Images

We could give you a full strength Coppa Italia preview. After all, Napoli are playing Udinese, a team we should actually know something about. But really, is there a point to giving you all the tiny details for this midweek match?

NAPOLI vs. Udinese:Thursday, January 22 9 p.m. CET, 3 p.m. ET Stadio San PaoloNaples

Let me explain. Now, normally I hate the idea of "passion" and "grinta" being the determining factors in a game. This is sport, and sport relies on talent, and technical skill, and a bit of blind luck. Anyone telling you differently is selling a Disney movie.

But on the other hand, this is the Coppa. This is the trophy Napoli currently hold in their cabinet. It sits next to the SuperCoppa, that shiny piece of metal earned for beating Juventus. It's the trophy that the partenopei have claimed twice in three seasons.

In other words, if ever there was a moment for passion, this is it. The last time Napoli had a trophy to defend, they fell at the first hurdle, losing to Bologna of all sides. Of course, Napoli then went on to finish second in the league. I think many fans would sacrifice a trophy for a secure Champions League spot, but the team is currently eight points back of Roma.

Rafa Benítez is a man who likes his trophies, and this is a squad that loves to lift them. So yes, passion could well be a deciding factor in this match. It can't be denied that this side loves to get up for big games. It's also hard to argue that passion didn't help drive Napoli to beat Fiorentina in Rome last year, despite the horrific events unfolding around them. It's difficult to think the heady promise of a shiny cup didn't play a role in Napoli getting past Juventus to win the SuperCoppa.

Normally, Udinese could be tricky. Napoli tend to get caught out by the small sides, which is what the Zebras have become once more. That's what happened back in October, after all. And last season, Udinese went all the way to the Coppa semifinals.

Udinese, however, aren't enjoying much of a renaissance under Andrea Stramaccioni. They're currently 12th, which at least is one place higher than their 13th place finish last season. They haven't won a game in recent memory, although their last victory must've been particularly sweet for their Mister, coming against Inter. The bianconeri aren't good at putting the ball into the net and aren't so great at keeping it out.

Still, Udinese can grind out a draw, and Udinese have beaten Napoli. It's highly likely Rafa will be fielding his b-squad tonight, too. The visitors certainly have a chance to progress. And that's why, when it comes to the Coppa, passion may well be the deciding factor.

Watch It

TV: RAI Due (Italy) (No one else cares)

Online: beIN Sports Connect

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, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page, which you should definitely like.