Udinese, who have just six Serie A (SA) games left, perfectly encapsulate the situation many teams find themselves in at this point in the season when there is nothing left to play for. Even though it might be incorrect to say, they’re already on the beach. Their 1-0 loss to a struggling Lecce on Friday night would seem to support that claim.
Udinese suffered their third straight league away defeat without scoring, so they should be relieved to be returning home, where they are undefeated in six SA games (W2, D4). When champion elect Napoli are scheduled to visit, any optimism derived from that run will undoubtedly be dashed. This is largely due to the fact that Udinese haven’t won a head to head match since April 2016 (D1, L13).
Due to Lazio’s loss to Inter Milan in the first match of the day on Sunday, Napoli had a chance to end their 33 years Scudetto drought against Salernitana. However, a 1-1 draw assured that they would have to wait a little longer. Following Lazio’s match against Sassuolo the night before, Napoli will have the advantage of knowing what is expected of them, and there is a chance that they won’t even need to score any more points to win the league going into this round.
If Napoli’s recent away league performance is any indication, then their destiny should be sealed here given that they have won eight straight SA games when traveling, a streak that is all the more impressive given that Luciano Spalletti’s team only allowed one goal during that stretch. Although Napoli has only managed one shutout in their last six such games (W1, D2, L3), they haven’t exactly been as reliable in Thursday’s SA away matches.
Beto, a devotee of the comforts of home, has scored three goals in Udinese’s previous four home league games, tying the score twice. Victor Osimhen of Napoli, who scored the game’s first goal in the reverse encounter, has, strangely, scored four of his past five goals with a header.
Mario Rui is sidelined due to an injury received in Napoli’s Champions League loss to Milan, despite Giovanni Simeone and Matteo Politano having regained their fitness and being eligible to play at Udine. Mathias Olivera, who appeared to have scored the Scudetto securing goal for the Partenopei on Sunday, is still filling in at left back.
The identical starting lineup that Salernitana maintained might indeed be used, with Hirving Lozano starting alongside the visitors’ most feared forwards, despite neither player being in peak shape.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia made headlines during his first Serie A season, but since the beginning of April, he has played the most minutes of any Napoli outfield player without recording a goal or an assist.
Victor Osimhen, on the other hand, has gone three league games without scoring, although he does have a record of four goals in as many games against Udinese. The in demand striker hasn’t gone four straight games without scoring this season.
The home team left Via del Mare without scoring, but both Isaac Success and Beto, the normal front two, could make a comeback in midweek owing to injuries.
As a result, captain Roberto Pereyra should back 10 goals leading scorer Beto in a 3-5-1-1 formation as Ilija Nestorovski is likely to be substituted.
Andrea Sottil has a full roster to choose from despite the absence of Gerard Deulofeu and Enzo Ebosse for the remainder of the season.
Udinese possible starting lineup
Silvestri, Becao, Bijol, Perez, Ehizibue, Samardzic, Walace, Lovric, Udogie, Pereyra and Beto.
Napoli possible starting lineup
Meret, Di Lorenzo, Kim, Rrahmani, Olivera, Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski, Lozano, Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia.
We predict: Udinese 0-1 Napoli
Napoli, who blazed through the majority of the season at an astonishing pace, have cooled off recently and no longer had the same fervor. That does not lessen their achievement of winning their first Scudetto since Diego Maradona’s time, and they can celebrate by winning nine games in a row.