Fiorentina are W5 D2 L3 over their past 10 against the Zebrette, although they’ve only managed a single point in Udine over that span. Over 83 matches in Serie A, the Viola are W38 D25 L20 with a +44 goal difference.
The referee for this one is Federico La Penna of Rome. He’s never handled a Gigliati match; in fact, this will be just his 7th Serie A match ever. In his previous 6, he’s handed out 23 yellow cards, but never given a penalty or sent anyone off.
The match will be played on Sunday, 4 March 2018, at 2 PM GMT/9 AM EST, at the Stadio Friuli in Udine.
The Bianconeri this year have been exactly what they are every year: solid, disciplined, and securely midtable. They sit in 11th place 33 points—2 behind the Viola—although they’ve taken just 4 points from their past 5 matches, including 3 defeats on the trot. That’s not to say that there’s any pressure on manager Massimo Oddo; on the contrary, he’s tipped as one of the best young misters in Italy and there have been whispers that he could take the Fiorentina job as early as next year.
Oddo will have to contend with numerous absences for this one, though. Centerback and club captain Danilo (hamstring), midfielders Valon Behrami (thigh) and Alexis Zapata (suspension), and forwards Kevin Lasagna (hamstring) and Rodrigo Aguirre (suspension) are all out. Keep an eye on striker Rodrigo de Paul, who has 4 goals and 7 assists this year, while the midfield duo of Jakub Jankto (who’s deputized as a striker this year as well) and Antonin Barak have also been quite impressive.
Udinese will come out in their usual 3-5-2. With a physically powerful backline and a hard-working midfield, they’ll be tough to break down through the middle, and they’ve got top-notch wingbacks to stifle things out wide. They’ll probably set up in a medium block, standing off their opponent’s defenders before pressing in midfield. De Paul and Jankto will tirelessly work the channels, looking to win 1 v 1 battles. Also watch out for any set pieces, as the Friulians possess a number of aerial threats.
Fresh off a dire 1-0 win over Chievo Verona, nobody’s quite sure what to think of these Gigliati. They’ve gathered 7 points from their last 5 matches and have moved up to 10th in the table—and could reach as high as 8th with a win and a bit of help—but they still haven’t really convinced.
Stefano Pioli has some choices to make for this one as well. Over the past couple of matches, he’s opted for a back three, so expect a start for Nikola Milenković, who returns from suspension along with Milan Badelj, who’s certain to resume his spot at the base of midfield. The attack, though, remains a mystery. Federico Chiesa is likely to start out wide on the right and Giovanni Simeone will start up top, but we could see any of Gil Dias, Diego Falcinelli, Riccardo Saponara, or Théréau could partner the Argentine.
Expect Pioli to dial it back a little bit here in terms of pressure. As Udinese love to work on the counterattack, he may move his block deeper to deny his opponents space over the top and between the lines. This may sound like the recipe for another trademark grind-it-out performance, and it almost certainly is. Expect the usual balls played into the channels for Cholito to chase until his lungs burst, and the usual collective prayers for Chiesa, Jordan Veretout, or somebody (Cristiano Biraghi) to summon some magic.
How to watch
TV: Check your TV listings here, but this one will probably require the internet to watch.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This has 0-1 written all over it. I’ll say that after a cagey start, Simeone bundles one over to score his first goal in 6 matches, and that Fiorentina survive the ensuing scuffle through midfield for the remainder of the game to steal all 3 points on the road.