The struggle to avoid relegation is pretty fierce in Serie A right now. Chievo look set to drop with just one win and 10 points to their name this season, but six teams have a chance to fill out the bottom two. One of those teams is Udinese. Udinese have pulled themselves out of the relegation zone over the last month, but they are out of the frying pan and into the fryer with back-to-back games against Juventus and Napoli. They were throttled by Juventus last weekend, and they are favored to fall against Napoli too.
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Napoli vs. Udinese
- Date and Time: March 17, 2019, 1 p.m. ET
- Location: Stadio San Paoli, Napoli, Italy
- US Television Coverage: ESPN2
- Betting Line: Napoli -1.5 and -2, O/U 3
Napoli are in second place in Serie A, and that’s likely to be where they’ll end up. However, they have not been exceptionally sharp in league play in recent weeks. The Neapolitans are just 1-3-1 in their last five domestic matches, and they were held to one goal or less in four of those five games. The good thing for Napoli is that their back line has been elite, and they posted five straight clean sheets before allowing Juventus and Sassuolo to score in their last two matches.
Udinese are four points ahead of Bologna in their battle to avoid relegation, but they have a game in hand and two other teams to use as cushion. The Little Zebras secured a needed win over Chievo a month ago with a late strike from Lukasz Teodorczyk, and they grabbed an even bigger victory when they beat Bologna 2-1. These teams met in mid-October and Napoli grabbed a 3-0 road victory over Udinese. However, it wasn’t as much of a blowout as the score line makes it seem. The match was pretty level most of the way until Napoli scored two goals in the last ten minutes to ice it.
We have yet to receive any update on when Antonin Barak might return to the lineup for Udinese. Bram Nuytinck is going to be sidelined because of a thigh strain, and Nicholas Opoku has been suspended. Samir Santos is unlikely to play as he continues to recover from surgery, and Marco D’Alessandro, Valon Behrami, and Stefano Okaka are all questionable. Not having Lorenzo Insigne for the next few weeks is going to be a huge loss for Napoli. He is one of the team’s best offensive options and his leadership will be missed. Raul Albiol and Vlad Chiriches are also out for the same amount of time, and Amadou Diawara is listed as doubtful.
Napoli Player to Watch
Dries Mertens has been deadly as an attacking midfielder this season, and he will be asked to pick up the slack with Insigne sidelined. Merterns has tallied eight goals this season, and he is one off the Serie A lead in assists with seven.
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Udinese Player to Watch
Rodrigo De Paul has been responsible for a lot of Udinese’s production this season. He leads the team in goals with 7 and is tied for the team lead in assists with 6. De Paul has a goal and an assist in Udinese’s last two games.
Napoli vs. Udinese Free Picks
I think Udinese will keep this relatively close. Napoli might rest some players after advancing in the Europa League on Thursday, and fatigue could be an issue on two days’ rest. Udinese are decent in defense, and I think they cover.
Napoli vs. Udinese Prediction: Napoli 2, Udinese 1
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