Stadio Friuli, Udine
Sunday 1st Feb, 2015, 15:00 GMT
Mid-table Udinese take on league leaders Juventus in an intriguing Serie A fixture on Sunday at the Stadio Fruili. Udinese ended a miserable five-game winless streak late last year by beating Inter on the road, before then falling at home to Verona. Whilst the Zebrette have put up a stiff fight on the road against strong opposition like Sampdoria, Sassuolo and Empoli, who they beat on Monday, they are a walking disaster at home, where they now have three draws against minnows Cesena, Chievo and Cagliari.
Juventus, on the other hand, seem to have returned to their consistent ways after dropping points to Inter, Sampdoria and Fiorentina in the space of a few weeks. Whilst Roma can’t seem to stop drawing, the Old Lady has won three on the trot and has a seven-point cushion at the top of the table. A key stat here is that Juventus have only dropped two points against bottom-10 teams, and that was against Sassuolo, who played very well to tie 1-1 in the autumn.
Team news and tactical brief
Udinese have been very inconsistent this season; they started in a very positive manner, then stuttered a bit. They are in 9th position at this moment with 27 points. They have a good squad of players but need to perform consistently if they want to have a chance of being successful in the Europa League race. Andrea Stramaccioni has done a fairly good job so far but he has not done enough to bring the club to the next level. He could be the right man for the future after taking over from Francesco Guidolin, but he has to deliver in the big games like this one. Panagiotis Kone is suspended; Maurizio Domizzi and Alex Geijo are injured while Emmanuel Badu and Molla Wague are taking part in the AFCON 2015.
Udinese have mostly used the 3-5-1-1 module this season and more of the same is expected on Sunday. Bruno Fernandes will start in midfield in place of injured Giampiero Pinzi. Ivan Piris will start in defence alongside Danilo and Thomas Heurtaux. Allan and Guilherme will cover the defensive duties in the middle while Silvan Widmer and Gabriel Silva will be the wing-backs. The Zebrette generally rely on the wings especially on Widmer but their main threats are the two strikers Cyril Thereau, who plays a more withdrawn role and has already scored seven goals so far this season. Ahead of him Antonio Di Natale will be looking to add to his nine goals and will definitely be the man who is most likely to make a decisive impact on Sunday.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-5-1-1): Karnezis(Gk); Piris, Danilo, Heurtaux; Widmer Allan, Guilherme, Fernandes, Pasquale; Thereau; Di Natale
Juventus had to work hard against Parma in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal on Wednesday but ultimately Alvaro Morata scored a last minute winner to secure the win and saved them from an extra half an hour on the pitch. Max Allegri rotated plenty of starters for the cup game but will be without Arturo Vidal due to the knock he suffered on his knee. The 4-3-3 which struggled against Parma is likely to be changed with the 4-3-1-2 system. Gianluigi Buffon will return in goal while Martin Caceres should start at right back. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini should start at centerback while Patrice Evra is expected to start on the left.
In midfield there are two notable absentees: the aforementioned Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, who is suspended for the match. Roberto Pereyra and Simone Padoin are expected to start in midfield with Pereyra in the hole. Pogba can also do a decent job in the attacking third as well. Andrea Pirlo will obviously start as the regista. The strike pair of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente should start up top. The Spaniard looked rusty against Parma midweek but he did register an assist to his name. Juventus fans will be hopeful that he can display his last year’s form in the second half of this campaign.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2):Buffon(Gk); Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Pirlo, Padoin, Pogba, Pereyra, Tevez, Llorente
Udinese and Juventus have met 81 times so far in Serie A: the Old Lady leads by 51 wins to 11
Juve have had the better of Udinese in their last six league games, keeping a clean sheet in four of those
Udinese’s last home win against Juve in Serie A was in April 2010 (3-0)
Players to Watch Out For
Cyril Thereau (Udinese)
Cyril Thereau has been one of Serie A’s most underrated strikers with Chievo. He was finally plucked from the depths of relegation dogfights and given a shot with a bigger side. He has proven to be a good fit alongside Toto Di Natale, and has already bagged seven goals this season.
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Paul Pogba has been phenomenal in recent weeks scoring four goals in his last five games. Young players can go through phases of superb form, but in Pogba’s case, he has been performing at such a level that this can no longer be considered a phase. Pogba’s display against Chievo last weekend was just breathtaking and he will no doubt look to continue his stunning form against Udinese as well.
Udinese 1–2 Juventus
After a poor run of form, Udinese managed to finally win by beating Empoli at the Castellani, thereby arresting their slide down the table. Juventus have registered three consecutive victories and achieved qualification to the Coppa Italia semi-finals by eliminating Parma in the midweek fixture. The hosts would probably settle for a point as they aim to embark on an unbeaten run, while Juventus’ form suggests they will continue their relentless march towards another title. Andrea Stramaccioni failed to keep up the good form his team had managed at the beginning of the season, but he has impressed against bigger rivals.
Blast From the Past
Juventus ran out 2-0 winners last time against Udinese thanks to an inspired display from Sebastian Giovinco.