Juventus will be hoping to remain in the top four of the Serie A league standings when they take on Udinese at Stadio Friuli on Sunday.
Juventus’s reign over Italian football is about to come to an end this season, with Inter Milan, who face Crotone on Saturday, just a couple of wins away from sealing the Serie A title. It would mark the first time any other side has won the league title since 2011.
The Bianconeri, however, still have a lot to play for as they look to remain in the top four, knowing the lack of Champions League football next season could ensue dire consequences for the club, especially from a financial perspective.
Juventus are currently fourth in the league table, level on points with fifth-placed AC Milan as well as third-placed Napoli. Their Sunday evening contest against Udinese, therefore, will be a must-win one, especially with Milan breathing down their neck while both Napoli and Atalanta could extend their lead.
As for Udinese, they do not have much to play for as they have already secured a mid-table position. Currently 11th in the league table, the Friulani do have a chance of finishing in the top half of the table, though, and a win on Sunday could go a long way in maintaining pressure on Sampdoria and Hellas Verona.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two clubs ahead of their crucial match-up in Serie A this weekend.
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— Udinese Calcio (@Udinese_1896) May 1, 2021
Generally someone who prefers his team to play with a three-man backline, Udinese head coach Luca Gotti will have to deal with some notable absentees heading into this contest, including goalkeeper Juan Musso, who has been suspended for one match due to the accumulation of too many yellow cards.
Simone Scuffet is likely to fill in for the suspended number one, while Gotti is expected to retain the usual combination of Rodrigo Becao, Kevin Bonifazi and Bram Nuytinck in the three-man backline. They are likely to operate a low defensive block, giving Juventus a tough ask of penetrating their lines in order to create chances.
It also means both wing-backs in Nahuel Molina and Jens Stryger Larsen are set to operate in a more defensive position, thus creating a 5-3-2 during defensive phases. They will have the license to march forward, however, and may even create passing triangles with the three midfielders, Walace, Tolgay Arslan and Rodrigo de Paul, who is the creator-in-chief for the home side.
The Argentine’s technical prowess and an eye for goal could indeed pose problems for the Juventus backline. He will also look to feed Roberto Pereyra and Stefano Okaka upfront, though coach Luca Gotti also has the option of unleashing the highly talented Jayden Braaf.
Probable Lineup (3-5-1-1): Scuffet; Becao, Bonifazi, Nuytinck; Molina, de Paul, Walace, Arslan, Larsen; Pereyra; Okaka
It will be interesting to see how Juventus line up on Sunday as Andrea Pirlo had switched to a three-man backline in the last game against Fiorentina. It was not all too successful, though, and the Italian could return to his preferred 4-4-2 that allows the two attackers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala to play with more freedom.
On the flip side, Pirlo has to sacrifice one of his midfielders and that is where he might prefer Adrien Rabiot ahead of Arthur, while Rodrigo Bentancur remains a guaranteed starter in the double-pivot. They will play a vital role in helping Juventus control possession as well as the winning loose balls in the middle of the park.
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Additional support could be provided by the wide players in Juan Cuadrado and Federico Chiesa, and while they generally like to play out wide, providing crosses into the box, there might be slight variation to their play this time around.
Pirlo has a bunch of alternatives as well, including Dejan Kulusevski, Federico Bernardeschi and Weston McKennie, who is guaranteed to be deployed as a substitute. His versatility coupled with his ability to carry the ball is a vital asset for Juventus.
And finally, in the defensive unit, Pirlo could welcome Danilo in the right-back slot, with the Brazilian pairing of him and Alex Sandro occupying the full-back positions. A left-sided overhaul from Juventus, though, should see Danilo mostly stay behind to help out the centre-backs in Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci, during defensive phases.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Rabiot, Chiesa; Dybala, Ronaldo
- Juventus have won six of their last seven Serie A games against Udinese – the only exception being the most recent at the Dacia Arena – a 2-1 win for the Friulians last July.
- Udinese have conceded 14 goals in their last five Serie A home games against Juventus, at an average of 2.8 per match. During this period, they have one win, one draw and three defeats.
- Juventus have earned only 25 away points so far in Serie A this season, fewer than any other team currently in the top six in the standings.
- Udinese have lost each of their last three home league games, all 0-1 in their history in Serie A, they have never lost four straight home games without scoring.
- For the first time this data is available (2004/05), Udinese have faced a penalty in four consecutive Serie A games – no team has conceded a penalty in more games consecutively during this period.
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Federico Chiesa’s ascension has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dire campaign for Juventus this term. The youngster has matured well in the attacking side of the game, impressing the onlookers with his ability to cut inside and provide a deadly pass inside the box for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.
As a result, the former Fiorentina man has become a first-team regular under Andrea Pirlo, with a total goal involvement of 17 – a tally only bettered by Ronaldo. Chiesa, though, has struggled with a hamstring issue in the past few weeks, so he will be eager to return to action on the weekend. Juventus will be hoping that his return to the first-team could boost their chance creation as they look to brush aside the Udinese backline.
Udinese 1-2 Juventus
Juventus have not performed very well away from home this season and are likely to struggle in creating goalscoring opportunities against Udinese. However, with Federico Chiesa back, they might get that extra oomph in the creative department and though we expect them to concede, the Bianconeri might seal a narrow victory over their rivals this weekend.