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Fiorentina vs. Udinese: Preview

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La Viola will try to end a streak of underwhelming games against the typically tricky Zebretti. And Antonio di Natale is still playing for them, so we've got that to look forward to.

Time to get Disco Nikola back on track.
Time to get Disco Nikola back on track.
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
Fiorentina vs. Udinese:Sunday, 6 December 2015 3:00 PM CET, 9:00 AM EST Stadio Artemio FranchiFlorence, Italy

Fiorentina are in the blah-est of form, while eleventh-placed Udinese are their usual dangerous selves. La Viola have done well against the Zebretti of late, going W3 D1 L1 with 8 goals scored and 7 conceded in their last five matchups. In 83 games, the good guys are W38 D25 L20, with 141 goals scored to 99 conceded. The ref for this one is Paolo Mazzoleni. Under his watch, Fiorentina are W5 D2 L3; most recent of those is the 0-2 win at Hellas Verona.

Fiorentina

Three straight underwhelming wins must have Paulo Sousa ready to pawn his kingdom for a win. Unable to notch victories against determined Tuscans Empoli or Europa challengers Sassuolo, some of the shine is coming the Portuguese mister. He still has Fiorentina in 3rd place, which few would have predicted earlier this year, but badly needs the three points to keep pace at the top of the table. Unable to keep a clean sheet since the win against Sampdoria, a tighter defense will be his first priority.

He'll have to do it without Jakub Błaszczykowski, still nursing a hamstring injury picked up while on international duty with Poland; Federico Bernardeschi has been brilliant as his replacement, though, so there's no drop-off in quality. Expect a strong starting XI, although we may see a few surprise starters in there as well (Mati Fernandez, anyone?).

Udinese

It's been business as usual for the second-oldest club in Italy. Stefano Colantuono replaced Andrea Stramaccioni in the offseason and has the club humming along at a Guidolin-like clip. He's stuck with the formation and tactics of his predecessor, which seems to be working well; they've won three on the trot. And you just know that this is the part of the year where everything clips for the Friulians and they suddenly go full Hulk mode, and Antonio di Natale is somehow still there despite more retirement announcements than Michael Jordan, which should fill every Viola fan with a sense of existential dread.

Following the blueprint provided by Empoli and Sassuolo, expect Colantuano to order his charges to press energetically from the top and man-mark the midfield, hoping to win the ball high and pressure Ciprian Tatarusanu's goal with quick breaks. He is, however, missing some starters; center backThomas Heurtaux (knee), midfielders Panagiotis Kone (calf) and Alexander Merkel (knee), and Duván Zapata (hamstring) are all out, while center back Molla Wagué (hamstring) and holding midfielder Guilherme (groin) are questionable. The dangermen are di Natale (duh) and class-A ding-dong Cyril Thereau, who has a lipstick tattoo on his neck. Also watch for former Fiorentina disaster and Inter Milan star Felipe in the defense.

Predicted lineups

Fiorentina (3-4-2-1): Tatarusanu; Roncaglia, Gonzalo, Astori; Bernardeschi, Badelj, Vecino, Alonso; Ilicic, Valero; Kalinic

Udinese (3-5-2): Karnezis; Piris, Danilo, Felipe; Widmer, Agyemang=Badu, Lodi, Iturra, Edenílson; di Natale, Thereau

How to watch

TV: Doesn't look good, friends.

Online: Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. If you post illegal streams in the comments, we'll send Borja to stare at you in disappointment. We'll also delete the streams, and ban you if you do it again. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page.

Shameless homer prediction

I hate these Udinese matches, because they're always well-drilled and know exactly how to beat the good guys. Even so, I'm predicting a gritty 2-1 win, with a di Natale strike canceling out a Gonzalo set-piece header before a late Kalinic tap-in.

See you tomorrow. Forza viola.