Napoli will be aiming to pile on Juventus’ misery when they take on Udinese at the Diego Maradona Stadium on Tuesday.

Aided by AC Milan’s thumping 3-0 win over Juventus on Sunday, Napoli will have the opportunity to extend their lead over the Bianconeri when they take on Udinese on Tuesday.

It is going to be a crucial game in the context of the Champions League race that is tightly poised at the moment. With just three matches remaining until the end of the season, Napoli are in the top four, with a slender one-point lead over fifth-placed Juventus.

A win on Tuesday, therefore, could take them to 73 points, with an opportunity to extend that lead, as Juventus are due to face a stern test against league leaders Inter Milan in one of their last three matches. Any mishap, however, will open up an ideal opportunity, not only for Andrea Pirlo’s men, but also for fellow contenders in AC Milan and Atalanta to grasp a huge advantage heading into Matchday 36 this weekend.

Udinese, on the other hand, have their top-flight status secured and have nothing much to play for other than pride. Il Friulani are currently 11th in the league table with 40 points on the board, with no chance of moving into the top eight.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two clubs ahead of this crucial game for Napoli, as the Partenopei hope to remain in the top four this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Napoli

Napoli head coach Gennaro Gattuso has a few issues to deal with, particularly the ones pertaining to the defensive department. It appears Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic will continue their spell on the sidelines, forcing him to persist with the defensive pairing of Kostas Manolas and Amir Rrahmani.

One positive for Gattuso, though, could come in the form of David Ospina, who is now back available and should replace Alex Meret in between the sticks. There should be another defensive change, with Elseid Hysaj likely to make way for Mario Rui at left-back. It has been quite a common rotation for the Partenopei this season, as the area is a very important one in Gattuso’s tactical philosophy.

Speaking of which, the onus will be on two Napoli midfielders in Diego Demme and Fabian Ruiz to offer the control in the middle of the park. Demme, though, should also play a vital role in offering that aggression in the second line of press, with the midfielder boasting a positional sense that makes him a class apart when it comes to non-possession phases.

As for the attack, Victor Osimhen remains guaranteed to spearhead the line, but things get interesting in the creative department.

Hirving Lozano, for one, is making a strong case to return to the starting eleven after scoring in the win over Spezia. His pace on the right hand side should complement well with the craft of Lorenzo Insigne and Piotr Zielinski, though the latter should also play a vital role in the press, potentially joining the central midfielders during defensive phases.

Both Osimhen and Insigne, though, were not 100% after the last game, although we do expect both to make the starting eleven against Udinese this midweek.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Rui; Demme, Ruiz; Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen

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Udinese

Udinese head coach Luca Gotti has no reasons to tinker much with the 3-5-2 setup he has been using predominantly throughout the season. The 53-year-old, though, will have to deal with multiple absentees including Gerard Deulofeu, Jayden Braaf and Ignacio Pusseto, leaving him devoid of attacking options.

While Stefano Okaka should continue to spearhead the Udinese frontline, alongside Roberto Pereyra, who should operate in a slightly deeper role, the onus will be on the two wing-backs in Jens Stryger Larsen and Nahuel Molina to offer the additional creative essence going forward.

Rodrigo De Paul, however, will be the club’s creator-in-chief. The Argentine is likely to operate in his usual central midfield role, where he can effortlessly link up with the likes of Pereyra as well as the fellow midfielders in Tolgay Arslan and Walace, with the latter expected to operate in the deepest role of Udinese’s second line of press.

de Paul’s proficiency from set-pieces, in particular, could be a useful source of creativity for the away side, especially with the physically astute options like Okaka and Fernando Llorente available at their disposal.

Defensively, Udinese don’t have any noticeable absentee, so Gotti should persist with the back-three of Rodrigo Becao, Bram Nuytinck and Kevin Bonifazo, as they look to protect Juan Musso in goal.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Musso; Becao, Nuytinck, Bonifazi; Molina, De Paul, Walace, Arslan, Larsen; Pereyra; Okaka

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Key Stats

  • Napoli were the victors when these two teams last met each other, in the reverse fixture back in January, with Tiemoue Bakayoko scoring a late winner to make it 2-1.
  • Udinese have not kept a single clean sheet in any of their last nine league encounters. Their last shutout came in the 2-0 win over Sassuolo in early March.
  • Only Inter Milan (79) and Atalanta (84) have managed to score more goals than Napoli (78) in the league this season.
  • The Partenopei also have the third-best defensive record in the league with only 39 goals conceded – only Juventus (34) and Inter (30) have conceded fewer.
  • Udinese, in contrast, have the third-worst scoring record in the league, with only relegation-threatened Parma (38) and Benevento (38) scoring fewer than the Friulani (40).

Player to Watch

Victor Osimhen

Victor Osimhen is undisputedly the man in form for not just Napoli but also in Serie A at the moment. The forward has indeed been on fire in recent weeks, having been involved in six goals in his last four matches. It has helped Napoli secure three valuable wins, including the 5-2 triumph over Lazio.

Although Osimhen’s overall tally of 10 league goals might not raise too many eyebrows considering his €70 million price tag, he is certainly starting to find his feet in Italy. And given his performances in recent weeks, the Nigerian international could certainly cause problems for the Udinese defence with his dynamism in the final third, coupled with his work rate and positional sense.

Luca Gotti, therefore, must find a way of neutralising the threat of the Napoli striker if the visitors are to salvage anything from this game. Perhaps one useful method will be to cut off the supply, especially from the wider areas of the pitch.

Prediction

Napoli 2-0 Udinese

Napoli have been in excellent form in recent weeks and are the undisputed favourites heading into this game. Although they are missing a few key defenders, they are more than likely to dominate this game, and with Victor Osimhen really starting to provide the goods going forward, The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 2-0 for Gennaro Gattuso’s men on Tuesday.

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