With a nine point lead over Fiorentina, third place looks almost sealed for Napoli. However, there is no room for complacency. The partenopei have been known to unpleasantly surprise their fans against so-called small teams, and that's something they cannot afford in these last few weeks, not with the Champions League on the line.
Luck favors the visitors, though. Udinese, both mediocre and completely forgettable this season, have no strong motivation to play particularly well. They still haven't reached the magical 40-point mark, but let's face it, the zebrette are not going to get involved in the relegation battle.
Francesco Guidolin, however, might do well to motivate his side. Udinese's owner, Giampaolo Pozzo, recently publicly criticized the team, saying that he thinks the zebrette have been boring this season. That, along with the side's position in the table, may well see the manager sacked come summer. But Guidolin has a few weeks to tinker with the side. After a few seasons spent depending on 3-5-2, the formation's let Udinese down this year, and Guidolin may switch to a 4-3-2-1 against Napoli.
Napoli don't often win at the Stadio Friuli, last claiming all three points in 2007. It will be a challenge again this season, with Gonzalo Higuaín, Napoli's top goalscorer, out with injury. They're also missing Dries Mertens, who's out with suspension. The two have scored 25 of Napoli's goals this season. At least the visitors will have José Callejón, who's knocked in 12, and Rafa will hoping last week's time on the bench gave Marek Hamšík the wakeup call he so desperately needs.
Udinese injuries and suspensions:
Napoli injuries and suspensions:
Projected line ups:
Saturday, April 19 at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
Stadio Friuli, Udine
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