What: Italian Serie A
Who: Udinese vs Juventus
When: Wednesday 21st December, 2011, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Stadio Friuli, Udine, Italy

First Place in Sight

Having played a game less than their midweek opponents, Udinese prepare to meet Juventus knowing that a win would grant them first place in the standings. Against a Bianconeri side that has been magnificent domestically this season, things will be anything but easy for Serie A’s second oldest club.

However, Udinese come into the match with a 100% record at the Friuli in the Italian top flight, having dispatched the likes of Roma and Fiorentina in previous weeks.

Nonetheless, the Zebrette will find in Juventus their toughest challenge yet as La Vecchia Signora have declared their brightest statement of intent so far this season. Despite this, head coach Francesco Guidolin has some powerful tools at his disposal, such as club captain Antonio Di Natale, who continues to be lethal in front of goal, as he bids to make it eight perfect wins on home turf.

Another statistic that will inspire confidence for Udinese is that they have conceded just two goals at home this season, against Chievo and Siena. Boasting the best defence in the league so far with eight goals, Udinese should certainly fancy their chances of keeping Juventus at bay for the evening.

Scudetto Advantage

Juventus have established themselves as the team to beat this year in the Scudetto race, and Antonio Conte’s troops travel to Udine knowing that a tough task awaits them. Udinese are a team that the Bianconeri have struggled to shake off despite a superb 15-game unbeaten run.

The Bianconeri were perfect in their preparations for this game as they calmly dispatched minnows Novara 2-0, but coach Conte was less than pleased with his team’s wasteful finishing in front of goal.

“During the week we work a lot on this aspect of the game [finishing]. In the next games we’ll look to convert more of our chances. We’ll enjoy today’s victory and tomorrow [Monday] we’ll turn our attention to the game against Udinese. We want to end 2011 in a positive way and exceed expectations.” declared the former all-action midfielder.

Inflicting upon Udinese a first home defeat of the league season will lift Juventus’ spirits ahead of the second half of the season, further establishing their standing as Serie A’s best side so far this season.

Recent form

Udinese 2-1 Chievo (11/12; Serie A)
Udinese 1-1 Celtic
(15/12; Europa League)
Lazio 1-1 Udinese (18/12; Serie A)

Juventus 2-1 Bologna (08/12; Coppa Italia)
Roma 1-1 Juventus
(12/12; Serie A)
Juventus 2-0 Novara (18/12; Serie A)

Key absences

Udinese:  Andrea Coda (doubt); Barreto

Juventus: Mirko Vucinic

Players to watch

Udinese – Antonio Di Natale: The veteran striker started the club’s game on the bench, as his boss opted to rest him for the clash against Juventus. Well into the twilight of his career, the former Italian international will be expected to lead his side to glory and maintain a perfect home record in Serie A.

Juventus – Claudio Marchisio: The midfielder is expected to pull the strings in a very tight game. An established member of the Juventus scheme now, it is no wonder that his team works best when Marchisio is at his best.

Match Prediction

Udinese hold the mental advantage going into this game, knowing full well that they have been flawless at the Friuli. That does not mean that Juventus will surrender easily however, but their efforts might come short here. Expect a 1-1 draw at the end of 90 minutes.


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