Stadio Diego Armando Maradona is the venue as Napoli and Udinese go head-to-head in Wednesday’s high-stakes Serie A showdown. Let’s look at our match preview for this contest.
Less than three months since breaking a 33-year Scudetto duck, Napoli could be on the verge of facing Milan’s fate from last season. The reigning title holders come into this fixture in the midst of a severe crisis after going winless in three consecutive league outings for the first time in over a year (D2, L1).
New manager Rudi Garcia was on the receiving end of Victor Osimhen’s frustration at the weekend. The Nigerian was caught lashing out at his manager after being subbed off late in a dismal 0-0 draw against Bologna. Despite chasing a goal, the Frenchman withdrew the Napoli talisman, who failed to convert a penalty midway through the second half.
With the tensions hitting the roof amid the champions’ dreadful start to their Serie A title defense, Garcia can ill-afford another slip-up. He has already come under heavy scrutiny, with Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis known for having problems with patience for underperforming managers.
Garcia is not the only head coach whose future could be on the line this midweek. Udinese boss Andrea Sottil has emerged as a leading candidate to become the first Serie A manager to be relieved of his duties in 2023/24 after his side’s humiliating league start.
Fiorentina stunned the Dacia Arena into silence last weekend as goals on either side of halftime saw them topple Udinese 2-0. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Friulians are not only winless in all five Serie A games this season (D3, L2), they haven’t scored in their last three league matches.
A free-scoring frontline was the main ingredient of Napoli’s title-winning Serie A campaign under Luciano Spalletti last term. However, under Garcia’s stewardship, the home side’s attack has stuttered, scoring a joint-low eight league goals among sides currently occupying the top eight places.
Garcia’s altercations with Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia can hardly inspire confidence among the Napoli faithful. But their recent home record against Udinese might settle some nerves. Since a goal-glutted 3-3 draw in 2013, they have pieced together a jaw-dropping nine-game winning home league streak against the Friulians.
Connoisseurs of action-packed football will hope both teams can score for a seventh consecutive top-flight meeting in Naples.
Player to Watch: Victor Osimhen
Despite wasting a penalty against Bologna to mark his third straight scoring blank in Serie A, last season’s Capocannoinere award winner deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s enough to say he has netted in four successive league appearances against Udinese.
Udinese’s matches this season have mostly been low-scoring affairs. With only Empoli (0) lamenting a worse scoring record in Europe’s top-five leagues than the Friulians (1), it’s no surprise each of their five Serie A games this season has featured under 2.5 goals. Against this backdrop, their recent visits to Napoli have produced ‘goal-friendly’ contests.
Despite not winning at the Maradona Stadium since 2011, they’ve entertained local fans lately, with their last seven visits to this venue containing at least three goals at an average of 4.57 per game. Unfortunately for under-fire Sottil, all those encounters resulted in Udinese’s loss.
With that in mind, the visitors could be staring down the barrel of a six-game winless Serie A start for the first time since 1989/90.
Player to Watch: Marco Silvestri
Silverstri will be the last man standing between Osimhen and his first Serie A goal since August. But the Italian goalkeeper has failed to keep a clean sheet in all eight previous appearances against Napoli, conceding a whopping 17 goals.
Napoli will be without experienced defenders Amir Rrahmani and Juan Jesus. Atalanta loanee Pierluigi Gollini is still out with a long-term injury.
On the other hand, Udinese will take this trip severely weakened by injuries. Gerard Deulofeu, Keinan Davis, Brenner, Vivaldo, Christian Kabasele, Kingsley Ehizibue, Adam Masina, and Enzo Ebosse will stay home with injuries.
Napoli vs Udinese Potential Lineups
Napoli (4-3-3): Alex Meret; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Leo Ostigard, Natan, Mathias Olivera; Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Stanislav Lobotka, Piotr Zielinski; Matteo Politano, Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Udinese (3-5-2): Marco Silvestri; Nehuen Perez, Jaka Bijol, Thomas Kristensen; Ebosele, Lazar Samardzic, Walace, Sandi Lovric, Jordan Zemura; Florian Thauvin, Lorenzo Lucca.
Napoli vs Udinese Prediction
This game could easily prove the end of the line for Sottil unless Udinese can somehow upset the odds, which looks highly improbable despite Napoli’s patchy form. We believe it’s time for Garcia’s men to show their champions’ DNA.
Prediction: Napoli Win
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