Roma again reduced the lead to five points and this means that Juventus are in another must-win situation as they visit Udinese at Stadio Friuli.
In the last two days, Udinese have recovered almost all of their injured players: Di Natale, Domizzi and Pinzi have been called up, only Lazzari and Badu are unavailable. Needless to say, it would have been much better to face a Di Natale and Domizzi-less Udinese, considering the slump of Luis Muriel and the shakiness of Bubnjic. Di Natale has been the only Udinese player to score in the last four matches. He comes from a MCL sprain but he should be ready to go.
Udinese have won four of their last five home matches (against Chievo, Milan, Sassuolo, Catania), tying the other one (against Atalanta). They have not conceded in four of the last six matches. Anyway, they have lost four games in a row against Juventus.
Udinese had a bad season. After finishing 5th last year, and despite not losing any major player this summer beside Benatia, they have struggled to find the right rhythm. They have been in the relegation area for most part of the season, they have had multiple disappointing and inexplicable performances, Di Natale has started scoring consistently only in January, Muriel hasn’t exploded, Guidolin has even been contested by the fans and there have been some sacking rumours. They dragged themselves out of the dangerous zone of the table, they are currently in 14th position and they have avoided relegation. But they have taken a huge step backwards.
Guidolin uses two tactical solutions: 3-5-1-1 and 4-2-3-1.
Well, you may have heard that they have a young prodigy in Simone Scuffet, who became a starter at 17 and is the closest thing to a Buffon’s heir Serie A has produced in the last ten years. He’s great.
Their defense (usually composed by Heurtaux, Danilo and Domizzi) has not been particularly good, especially because Danilo has not been the leader he was supposed to be after Benatia left. Heurtaux is an interesting player and he has scored four goals this year.
Allan and Pereyra are the most used elements in the midfield. Allan is a great force, he is outstanding in tackling (he leads the league in that stat) and he is an ordinate passer. Pereyra is very muscular and pacey and makes a living out of hard cuts. Yebda or Pinzi will complete the midfield trio.
On the flanks, Silvan Widmer has been a revelation this year. 21-year-old, great engine and also great awareness. He has been usually been fielded on right, with Dusan Basta or Gabriel Silva on the left. Basta has peaked two seasons ago and he has not improved (it makes sense since he’s 29), Gabriel Silva has been ok, but probably they were expecting more from him.
The CAM Bruno Fernandes is a star in the making. He’s only 19 but already plays with great confidence. He’s a good outside shooter and overall just a smart and skilful player, despite being very skinny. Up front, Di Natale is pushing to play his last game (or maybe he’ll pull a Tony Gonzalez and decides he had announced his retirement too early) against the team he was so close to join in the past. If not, Luis Muriel will take his place. I love the Colombian but he stank all year, scoring only four goals. They also have Nico Lopez (he never gained Guidolin’s trust) and Maicosuel, but they probably won’t play.
It doesn’t change much if Guidolin opts for 4-2-3-1. Heurtaux slides as RB, Gabriel Silva (or Widmer) as LB. Basta is more advanced, as RW, with Pereyra on the other flank. Probably this is a project Guidolin is developing for next year in case Di Natale really retires and he will need more offensive punch to compensate that huge hole.
It is not hard to identify Udinese’s playing style. Their only weapon is the counter-attack and they master it. Di Natale is not only a scorer, but he’s a very creative passer in the open floor and can set up the teammates at ease. Fernandes and Pereyra are very effective and combine well with the captain.
Often in these last games of the season, motivation makes a big difference. Juventus have the biggest motivation of them all, Udinese, who have no more targets, have basically none. This does not mean they will lie down and let Juventus massacre them, but if Conte’s side follows the game plan and does well the preventive markings while the team is in the opponent’s half, there should be no problems.