We were just talking about Napoli playing Udinese not all that long ago, and how frustrating a matchup it can be. Napoli came out victorious when the two sides met in the Coppa Italia last month, but this time league standing is on the line. Napoli will be trying to pull yet closer to Roma and Udinese just want to be relevant again after their strong start to the season came to a screeching halt. This won't be an easy match by any stretch, and Napoli will have to figure out how to overcome injuries and fatigue to come out with all three points.
Udinese have just two wins in their last 13 matches and have been mediocre at best for much of that spell of matches. Making things worse is a slew of unavailable key players - club legend Antonio Di Natale is suspended along with eternal thorn in Napoli's side Panagiotis Kone, Emmanuel Bandu is playing in Sunday's AFCON final, and several regular members of their rotation are injured.
That doesn't mean Udinese lack in good players; all three central defenders are quality players, as are Allan and Sebastian Widmer. Striker Cyril Thereau is among the Serie A scoring leaders, and has been a regular pain in Napoli's ass when he's faced the partenopei the last couple of years. Napoli can't be at all complacent even in the face of Udinese's depleted squad, or else they could pay a hefty price.
Sprinting To The Top
Napoli are in fine form right now, with their only points lost in 2015 coming in a controversial loss to Juventus. The performances haven't always been pretty, but Napoli have, over and over, found ways to win.
This time, they'll have to win with a depleted squad of their own. David Lopez is almost certainly out with the flu. Christian Maggio isn't a sure thing because of a back injury, and both Henrique and Giandomenico Mesto are both extreme doubts thanks to their own injuries.
Make no mistake: this is a must-win match for Napoli, as will be essentially every Napoli match from now to the end of the season. Napoli may not be at their best thanks to their squad issues, but they need to find a way to win once more.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Inler, Gargano; Callejon, Hamsik, Gabbiadini; Higuain
Udinese: Karnezis; Heurtaux, Danilo, Piris; Widmer, Allan, Guilherme, Bruno, Pasquale; Thereau, Aguirre
At a glance
Udinese: 11th; 7W 7D 7L; League Form: DWDDL
Napoli: 3rd; 11W 6D 4L; League Form: WWWLW
When Last We Met ...
Napoli and Udinese have met twice this season, with the last time coming just two weeks ago in the Coppa Italia round of 16. The match went through extra time as a 2-2 draw before Napoli came through triumphant on penalties. The match was long and frustrating (extra time is stupid), but getting the victory in the end was definitely not a bad thing. The full recap can be found here.
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