Udinese are closer to the bottom of the table than to the top, but that shouldn't fool anyone. Francesco Guidolin and his team have beaten Fiorentina and lost to Juventus in the 92nd minute over the last two rounds, showing just how dangerous they are on the break. Napoli, on the other hand, lost to Parma at home before making it more difficult to win 4-2 at Lazio than it really should've been.
Now, Napoli must beat the zebrette if they are to stay in touch with the top of the table. They have to do it while somehow saving enough energy for the Champions League match against Arsenal... and then another extremely important game in Serie A against Inter. And they have to do all of that without their best player, Marek Hamsik.
With those games in mind, Rafa Benitez may give a few of his players a rest. Valon Behrami's picked up a minor injury, so it's likely to be Blerim Dzemaili partnered with Gokhan Inler in defensive midfield. With Hamsik out, Goran Pandev will likely step in behind Gonzalo Higuain, with Dries Mertens on the left and Jose "Ziggy" Callejon on the right.
Pablo Armero, while not injured, will most likely not play, and Frenchman Antony Revelliere will get his debut for the azzurri. It's hard to imagine any Napoli fans considering Armero's absence as problem, given his horrible form this season, and they will certainly be hoping that Revelliere can bring more security to the back line..
Udinese visits Naples after two solid performances against teams of similar quality to the hosts. They're finally finding form after a slow start and, while it might a bit late to grab a European slot, Udinese still might find an important role this season, in taking points from the favorites. Their defense has improved, making them more confident, while Guidolin must be thrilled that his favored counter-attack is getting better and better.
But the bianconeri manager is facing a small injury crisis up front. Antonio Di Natale will once again sit out the match in his native Naples due to injury. Since Luis Muries is also injured, Guidolin will opt for young Nico Lopez up front, with Bruno Fernandes and Roberto Pereyra behind him. The rest of the team should be the same as in previous weeks, with Dusan Basta and an in-form Gabriel Silva, perhaps Udinese's best player at the moment, on each flank. Considering Napoli's major weak point is its fullbacks, who are transitioning from roles as wing backs, those two will create lots of problems out wide.
Napoli injuries and suspensions
Udinese injuries and suspensions
Antonio Di Natale, Luis Muriel, Mathias Ranegie, Igor Bubnjic (injuried)
Projeted line ups
Napoli (4-2-3-1): Pepe Reina; Christian Maggio, Federico Fernandez, Raul Albiol, Antony Revelliere; Gokhan Inler, Blerim Dzemaili; Jose Callejon, Goran Pandev, Dries Mertens; Gonzalo Higuain
Saturday December 7, 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
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