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May 11, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
Zielinski (28'), Fabian (31'), Lozano (56'), Di Lorenzo (66'), Insigne (90+1')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Okaka (41')
Bonifazi (54')

Preview: Napoli vs. Udinese - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Napoli vs. Udinese - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Serie A clash between Napoli and Udinese, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Currently embroiled in a fierce fight for European qualification, top-four contenders Napoli host mid-table Udinese at Stadio Maradona on Tuesday evening.

While the visitors arrive in Naples with their top-flight status essentially assured, Gennaro Gattuso's side must strive for maximum points to keep themselves in the mix for a Champions League spot.

Match preview

Having previously fallen two points behind fellow top-four contestants Atalanta, Juventus and Milan after a disappointing draw with relegation-threatened Cagliari, Napoli got back to winning ways at the weekend.

Against a struggling Spezia side, the Partenopei went three goals ahead in the first half - with record signing Victor Osimhen continuing his red-hot form to bag a brace before striding clear to set up Hirving Lozano's 79th-minute strike, which made the final score 4-1 at Stadio Alberto Picco.

Osimhen has now netted in four consecutive games, with a total of five goals coming in that spell - showing signs of being back to his best after struggling to make an initial impact because of injuries and illness. Now into double figures for the season, the Nigeria international could be an integral part of helping Napoli secure a return to Europe's elite in the final fortnight.

After playing three members of the bottom six in recent weeks, the Partenopei now await the arrival of a mid-ranking club they have dominated in recent times. Victorious the last time these two clubs met back in January, at the Dacia Arena - despite the absence of both first-choice strikers Osimhen and Dries Mertens - Napoli have won nine of their last ten encounters with the Friulian club in all competitions.

Coach Gennaro Gattuso will, then, undoubtedly expect to further improve that record on Tuesday, before continuing a relatively kind conclusion to the fixture list - as they meet Fiorentina and then Verona in the final two rounds.

Still seeking to slip into the top half of the Serie A standings before the season's end, Udinese hope to finish their 2020-21 campaign with a flourish in the coming weeks.

A run of five defeats from their last eight matches has seen Luca Gotti's men have their hopes of catching 10th-placed Verona diminish, but the gap to the Venetians is not insurmountable.

Visits to both Champions league-chasing Napoli and freshly-crowned league champions Inter in their final three fixtures, however, mean the inconsistent Zebrette will have to upset the odds to make the final top 10.

Saturday's 1-1 draw with fellow mid-table side Bologna brought a moment of redemption for much-admired captain Rodrigo De Paul, who was dismissed against Crotone last month before giving away a decisive late penalty in the 2-1 defeat to Juventus.

The Argentinian playmaker jinked clear of the hosts' defence in the 23rd minute to give his side the lead with a smart finish - indicative of his ability to flourish at a higher level - but another late spot kick (remarkably, the sixth successive game in which Udinese have conceded one) saw Bologna snatch a point.

Gifting penalties will be out of the question on Tuesday, if the Bianconeri are to turn over a team that they have regularly lost to in recent years, so they will hope De Paul can once more work his magic in the opposition area, at the Maradona, ahead of his inevitable departure for greener pastures in the summer.

Napoli Serie A form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Udinese Serie A form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D

Team News

As first-choice goalkeeper David Ospina was back on the bench last time out - following a spell on the sidelines with a thigh strain - the former Arsenal stopper is now expected to make his return to Napoli's starting XI, with Alex Meret therefore dropping out.

Central defenders Kalidou Koulibaly (thigh) and Nikola Maksimovic (COVID-19) were ruled out of action at the weekend, though, and remain unlikely to return to the squad for Tuesday's game. Should they fail to recover in time, Kostas Manolas and Amir Rrahmani will pair up at the heart of the hosts' defence.

While Hirving Lozano hopes that his goal on Saturday will be enough to secure a return to the side ahead of Matteo Politano, in-form Victor Osimhen should retain his place despite the claims of club record scorer Dries Mertens, who has successfully overcome an ankle sprain.

Udinese saw young forward Jayden Braaf added to their list of attacking absentees last week, due to a knee sprain, with the Dutch starlet joining Ignacio Pussetto, Gerard Deulofeu and Ilija Nestorovski in missing out on the rest of the season.

With few other options available - though Fernando Forestieri waits in the wings - either Stefano Okaka or Fernando Llorente (who remained on the bench due to a back issue against Bologna) should start as the Bianconeri's lone striker in Naples. Support, as ever, will come from Argentinian pair Roberto Pereyra and Rodrigo De Paul.

Midfielder Tolgay Arslan has been ruled out with a bruised knee, while Rodrigo Becao will be replaced by Sebastien De Maio if he cannot recover from a thigh injury.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Rui; Demme, Ruiz; Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen

Udinese possible starting lineup:
Musso; De Maio, Bonifazi, Nuytinck; Molina, De Paul, Walace, Makengo, Larsen; Pereyra; Okaka

We say: Napoli 2-0 Udinese

Though Udinese have fared better away from home this season - and scored nearly twice as many goals on the road - a trip to Naples at this stage of the season is a formidable assignment.

Since slipping out of Europe, under-fire boss Gennaro Gattuso has got his Napoli squad motoring, so with Victor Osimhen and company in fine form up front, the Azzurri are strong favourites to post a 10th win in 14 games.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:data

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Serie A Table
1 38287389355491
2 38247774413379
3 38239690474378
4 38239677383978
5 38245986414577
6 38215126155668
7 381881268581062
8 381711106456862
9 38157165254-252
10 381112154648-245
11 381012164758-1142
12 381011175165-1441
13 38913164759-1240
14 381010184258-1640
15 38912175272-2039
16 38910194359-1637
17 38716155069-1937
18 38712194075-3533
19 3865274592-4723
20 38311243983-4420
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