Juventus will look to take a step closer to the Serie A title as they travel to Udine to lock horns with Udinese at the Stadio Friuli.
After a crunch victory against Lazio on the weekend, Juventus will look to take a huge step forward towards retaining the Serie A title as they get ready to face off against Udinese Calcio at the Stadio Friuli.
The Bianconeri currently sit on top of the table with 80 points, six clear off second-placed Atalanta. Their stronghold on the title may seem safe for now, but it was brought under severe scrutiny before the lockdown when Inter Milan and Lazio sat just two and four points off them.
They have regained form like you would expect the defending champions would, winning five of their eight games in the league since the campaign restarted last month, most recently defeating Lazio.
It has not been a bed of roses for Udinese though; far from it. They sit 16th in the table, seven adrift of the relegation zone. However, they will face easier opponents after they are done with Juventus. Last time out, they were able to hold Napoli to a 1-1 draw till about the very last minute when Matteo Politano scored the winner deep into stoppage time to take the game away from them.
The reverse fixture between Juventus and Udinese ended 3-1 in favour of the hosts, thanks to a first-half brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and then a goal on the brink of half-time from Leonardo Bonucci. Ignacio Pusseto was able to pull one back for Udinese, but it served as nothing more than a consolation. They also faced each other in the Coppa Italia in January, a game that ended 4-0 to Juventus.
Team News & Tactics
Luca Gotti will have to cater to a few injuries ahead of the vital game on Thursday. Lukasz Teodorczyk, Sebastian Prodl, Mato Jajalo and Rolando Mandragora all miss out due to injury are not expected to be back anytime before the season ends.
Juan Musso will retain his spot as the No.1 for Udinese, holding the fort in the 18-yard-box. He will be shielded by a back-three which would consist of Bram Nuytinck as the stopper, with Rodrigo Becao and Samir arching him on the right and left side respectively. Sebastien de Maio is in contention to start as well but is likely to see out the game on the bench after a tiring display against Napoli.
Jens Stryger Larsen and Marvin Zeegelaar will assume the responsibility as the wing-backs, playing on either side of a five-person midfield. They will be flanking Rodrigo De Paul, Seko Fefona and Ken Sema. De Paul scored the opener against Gennaro Gattuso’s side on the weekend and will pose a threat to Juventus as well.
Ahead of this midfield, Kevin Lasagna and Stefano Okaka will partner up as the striker in the 3-5-2, which would closely resemble a 5-3-1-1 while defending.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Musso; Becao, Nuytinck, Samir; Stryger Larsen, De Paul, Fofana, Sema, Zeegelaar; Lasagna, Okaka
Some fresh concerns have come up for Maurizio Sarri ahead of Thursday’s matchup. This includes Leonardo Bonucci, who picked up his 10th yellow card against Lazio and is suspended. Gonzalo Higuain is expected to go through a last-minute fitness checkup and remains a doubt for Juventus.
Mattia de Sciglio and Sami Khedira are still injured while Federico Bernardeschi has returned to the squad after serving his suspension.
Bernardeschi got his rest on the weekend and is expected to start on the right-wing against Udinese. He will partner Cristiano Ronaldo who will begin on the opposite side while Paulo Dybala leads the line in a false-nine role for Sarri.
Adrien Rabiot will retain his spot in the midfield three, starting in the left-of-centre spot. Aaron Ramsey, though, will be benched to make way for Miralem Pjanic, who will start as the deepest midfielder of the three replacing Rodrigo Bentancur in that role. The Uruguayan will start, though, but on the right of Pjanic.
Matthijs de Ligt and Daniele Rugani are expected to start in the heart of the defence, as Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado provide the width from the back. This back-four will be given the responsibility to screen Wojciech Szczesny as he picks up the gloves for the 26th time for the season.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Rugani, de Ligt, Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Rabiot; Bernardeschi, Dybala, Ronaldo
- Udinese have won only one of their last 15 games against Juventus – a 1-0 win in August 2015.
- Juventus have won their last five games against Udinese in the league, scoring 17 goals, and conceding just four.
- Maurizio Sarri and Luca Gotti have met just twice in their careers. Sarri has won both of these games.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 30 goals this season along with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile – a feat that has been achieved by only two other players in the last 60 years of Serie A, Gonzalo Higuain and Luca Toni.
- It took Ronaldo 61 games to reach 50 goals in the Serie A, becoming the quickest ever to achieve that tally.
Player to Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the league by storm since the turn of the year, scoring 20 goals in 16 games. Amidst this, though, Paulo Dybala’s resurgence has mostly gone under the radar. Maurizio Sarri had publicly admitted before the start of the season that they are looking at prospective buyers for the Argentine but had to inculcate him into the squad after failing to do so.
Dybala has operated mostly in the false nine role this season, scoring 11 goals and setting up 11 more. However, his numbers do not represent how important he has been for Juve.
The 26-year-old is never afraid to step out of his position to make space for other forwards before releasing a killer ball. He also drops deep and continually attempts to play lobbed through-balls over the defence for the wingers. This will be extremely key on Thursday as he will lock horns with a lethargic Udinese defence.
Udinese 1-4 Juventus
Udinese will be desperate to take some points off the defending champions as they are far from safe right now. However, with the kind of form Cristiano Ronaldo and co. are in, it seems far from likely.
Moreover, Juventus seem to come alive whenever their Serie A crown is at stake and provide with some of the most clutch performances the continent will see. History is proof of the same, most recently when they stopped Napoli’s charge at the title in 2017/18. Having said that, expect them to come alive on Thursday as well.