JUVENTUS

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UDINESE

Olimpico Grande Torino, Turin

January 30, 2011, 19:45 GMT

An in-form Udinese side makes a trip to the Stadio Olimpico in Turin to face a Juventus side struggling to find any sort of form this year. The Old Lady are coming off a 2-0 loss against Roma in the Coppa Italia quarter-final, which followed a lacklustre performance against Sampdoria last weekend. The loss has mounted more pressure on boss Gigi Del Neri with rumors of Marcello Lippi and Luciano Spalletti in line to replace him doing the rounds. With the Scudetto dreams all but gone, Juventus look certain to endure another trophy-less season. However, the club has maintained in the past that the priority this season is a top-four finish and chance to play in the Europe’s elite club competition, the Champions League, next season, having missed out this term. The Turin based outfit occupy 6th position in the league table, 9 points adrift of leaders A.C. Milan, and a win against Udinese would certainly bolster their Champions League aspiration.

Udinese have been in tremendous form of late and their confidence should be sky high after a huge come-from-behind victory over Champions Internazionale last weekend. The Udine based outfit have won plaudits in recent weeks for their attractive brand of football. Udinese are finally living upto their potential this season after last season’s disaster, wherein they were mere relegation survivors. The Bianconeri have their sights firmly set on a top 6 finish this season. They currently sit in 8th position in the league table and a win over Juventus would catapult them over the Old Lady. Udinese will be looking for revenge as they were trounced  4-0 in the reverse fixture in September.

Tactical News and Team Brief

Juventus

Gigi Del Neri will be without the services of long term absentees Paolo De Ceglie, Leonardo Rinaudo, Fabio Quagliarella, Luca Toni and Armand Traore. Italo-Brazilian Amauri, alongwith former Udinese players Simone Pepe and Marco Motta, picked up knocks against Roma on Thursday evening and will be unavailable for this fixture.

Brazilian hardman Felipe Melo will be available for selection, after he completes the three match ban that he received for that horrific kick to Massimo Paci in the game against Parma. Melo has been in very good form this season and his partnership with Aquilani has been vital to Juve’s success in the first half of the season. His return will certainly benefit Aquilani as he will be relieved of all the passing pressure he was under when partnered by Momo Sissoko.

Del Neri should retain his 4-4-2 formation. Gigi Buffon should return to take his place in goal after he was given a rest in midweek. Juve haven’t lost a game when Buffon has started this season. New signing Andrea Barzagli who transferred from Wolfsburg should start from the bench. Vincenzo Iaquinta is a doubt for this game and should be declared unavailable, while Uruguayan Jorge Martinez will partner captain Alessandro Del Piero in attack.

Form Guide: DWLLD

Possible Lineup (4-4-2): Buffon; Sorensen, Bonucci, Chiellini, Grosso; Krasic, Melo, Aquilani, Marchisio, Del Piero, Martinez

Football Fans Know Better

Udinese

Coach Francesco Guidolin has instilled a very attacking and fluid 3-5-2 formation which has won over many fans for Udinese. The Bianconeri have been heavily dependent on the attacking talent of Alexis Sanchez and top scorer Antonio Di Natale. Udinese have notched up an impressive 13 goals in their last 4 Serie A games.

Udinese’s main strength is their attacking prowess. Their free-flowing fluid attacking system has been easy on the eye and is paying dividends, testament to which is their current form. They will be looking for a place in Europe next season, and certainly have the squad capable of doing so.

Guidolin isn’t expected to change much from the side that beat Inter last week. He will remain without Dusan Basta and Damiano Ferronetti, who are still injured. Gokhan Inler is the hearbeat of Udinese’s midfield and the onus will be on him to provide the ammunition for the strikers. Di Natale will continue his partnership with Chelsea target Alexis Sanchez. While Zapata and Domizzi, scorers from the win over Inter, will be partnered by Benatia in defence. Mauricio Isla has been in devastating form in the past few games and is expected to provide the width alongwith Pablo Armero.

Form Guide: WWDWL

Possible Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Benatia, Domizzi, Zapata; Isla, Pinzi, Inler, Asamoah, Armero, Di Natale, Sanchez

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Antonio Di Natale (Udinese)

Toto Di Natale has been crucial this season

Udinese skipper Di Natale had rejected a move in the summer to Juventus in order to continue his career at Udine. He is now the front runner for the Capocannoniere award having netted 15 goals this season. Di Natale has been typically inspirational in Udinese’s success so far this season and is one shy of scoring 100 league goals for Udinese. He will fancy his chances against a shaky Juventus backline on Sunday.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Juventus 1-1 Udinese

Historically, Juventus have done well against Udinese on home turf. However, Udinese’s current form and Juve’s lack of form could result in a draw or possibly an upset victory for Udinese. Nevertheless, an exciting game beckons.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST