By 90Min
April 17, 2018

After faltering against AC Milan, Napoli are now six points behinds Juventus in the race for the Serie A title. Gli Azzurri and the Old Lady will meet next weekend, so Napoli must be sure to keep the pace when they face Udinese for their next league tie. 

While they are not an any immediate danger, Udinese will be acutely aware of the horrible run of form they are currently enduring where they have not won a game for 10 matches. They face a difficult task of trying to overcome this bad spell against a side chasing their first league title since 1990. 

Here's the rundown of this midweek clash. 


Classic Encounter

ROBERTO SALOMONE/GettyImages

Napoli have been dominating this fixture over the last three years, losing just once in eight meetings. But before then, Udinese enjoyed a run of matches against Napoli where they lost just twice in 13 matches. During this run these two sides played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in December 2013. 

Goran Pandev scored twice three minutes for Napoli to give Gli Azzurri a quick two goal lead. Federico Ferndandez scored an own goal on the stroke of half time to give Udinese hope going into the break. 

An equaliser eventually came through Bruno Fernandes who struck brilliantly from outside the box and over goalkeeper Rafael Barbosa. However, Napoli's lead was restored less than minute later when Blerim Dzemaili finished from a rebound after Gonzalo Higuain's initial shot was saved. 

But Udinese would deny Napoli the win for a second time when defender Dusan Basta scored from close range following a corner. 


Key Battle 


Lorenze Insigne vs Danilo

Marco Luzzani/GettyImages

With Dries Mertens a suspension risk for this midweek fixture, all eyes could be on Lorenzo Insigne to ensure Napoli earn three points on Wednesday.

Napoli's formidable front three of Mertens, Insigne and Jose Callejon have created 54 goals between them in Serie A this term, with Insigne having contributed 16. The 26-year-old has often served as the creator on the left hand side and has combined with Mertens this season to great effect. Insigne may need to ensure his shooting boots are on on Wednesday to ensure Napoli get the goals they need. 

The Italian forward will be up against a Udinese defence which has failed to keep a clean sheet since January. The side often play with a back three with captain Danilo leading from the middle. 

Only two other sides have scored more league goals than Napoli this season - Juventus and Lazio. Udinese and Danilo will do well to keep this side out, especially after conceding two goals in each of their last nine league games. 


Team News

Napoli will miss their highly coveted defender Kalidou Koulibaly due to suspension. Gli Azzurri face a possibility title-deciding match with Juventus next weekend so could rest some key players, including Dries Mertens who is one booking away from a suspension. 

Faouzi Ghoulam remains Napoli's only injury concern as the defender continues to recover from a broken kneecap he sustained in February. 

Udinese also have a player suspended for this clash with Emil Hallfredsson due to miss out. Valon Behrami will miss a visit to his former club because of a knee problem. Top scorer Kevin Lasagna could also miss out due to injury. 


Potential Napoli Starting Lineup: Reina; Hysaj, Tonelli, Albiol, Rui; Allan, Jorginho, Hamisk; Callejon, Milik, Insigne. 


Potential Udinese Starting Lineup: Bizzarri; Nuytinck, Danilo, Samir; Stryger Larson, Barak, Fofana, Jankto, Adnan; Lopez, Paul


Prediction

After being held to a stalemate against AC Milan, Napoli can't afford anymore slip ups if they stand any chance of winning the Scudetto. The decider could come next week when they play league leaders Juventus, where if they lose they could fall nine points adrift of the top spot. 


Udinese could be the ideal opponent for Napoli to pick up some points against as the the Little Zebras are currently on a torrid run of nine straight league defeats. 

Udinese have also been leaking goals in this time and conceded at least two in each of their last nine matches. 

Prediction: Napoli 3-1 Udinese

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