Just months after securing their first Serie A title in over three decades, Napoli appears to be teetering on the brink of crisis due to an underwhelming start to the 2023/24 season. Despite initially winning their first two league matches, the Partenopei have been winless in their subsequent three encounters (D2, L1). Their most recent match ended in a frustrating goalless draw against Bologna, which saw star striker Victor Osimhen missing a penalty and expressing dissatisfaction with new coach Rudi Garcia’s late substitution.
Rudi Garcia is already feeling the heat as he inherited a title-winning squad but now finds his team seven points adrift of league leaders Inter after just five rounds. While he maintains that the “majority of fans still support the team and coach,” it’s apparent that Napoli is grappling with internal dissent, with key attackers like Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia openly questioning his coaching methods. This turmoil has contributed to Napoli’s struggles, as they have scored only eight goals in Serie A this season, the joint-lowest among the top-eight teams.
Their upcoming opponents, Udinese, are in an even worse situation, having scored just one goal in the first five games of the Serie A campaign (D3, L2). This marks the first time they’ve gone winless in their opening five matches since the 1989/90 season. Therefore, facing Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona couldn’t come at a more challenging time for Udinese, especially when they haven’t won a Serie A match at the stadium since April 2011, enduring 11 losses and one draw in their last 12 visits.
Udinese’s manager, Andrea Sottil, expressed his regret after his team’s 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina, a match in which they allowed goals from the only two shots on target by their opponents, despite registering a remarkable 2.22 expected goals (xG). With only Empoli scoring fewer goals across Europe’s top-five leagues (0), Sottil remains optimistic that “results will come” and is eager to see an improvement, especially since his team has won just two of their last 17 Serie A away matches, dating back to October 2022 (D6, L9).
In terms of key battles, despite his disagreements with the manager, Victor Osimhen is likely to remain an essential player for Napoli. He has an impressive track record against Udinese, having scored in four consecutive meetings (5 goals). Udinese’s goalkeeper, Marco Silvestri, on the other hand, has never kept a clean sheet in eight encounters with Napoli, conceding 17 goals in those matches (W1, D1, L6).
One notable stat is that five of Napoli’s last six home league wins have been achieved with a clean sheet, highlighting their ability to secure victories while keeping their opponents at bay. As Napoli seeks redemption, this match against struggling Udinese presents an opportunity to get their season back on track and climb the Serie A table.