Victories over Hellas Verona and Sampdoria meant that Juventus began the new year the way they ended 2015, piling up the wins to maintain their bid for a fifth consecutive Serie A title. The Turin giants have now triumphed in each of their last nine league outings, and coach Massimiliano Allgeri’s side will face Udinese brimming with confidence.
Going into the next round of fixtures, the Bianconeri have shrugged off their poor early form, starting the weekend just two points behind leaders Napoli. The same cannot be said for their opponents, however, the Stadio Friuli-based side losing all but two of their last six outings and looking devoid of ideas.
"Serie A is a bad customer," Udinese boss Stefano Colantuono lamented at a recent press conference, per Football Italia, and he will hope his players can quickly improve to prevent them falling any further down the table.
That is likely to prove difficult against a resurgent Juventus, with captain Gigi Buffon still not satisfied with his team’s progress and demanding more from them in a recent interview with Mediaset Premium.
"Today we’re second, but if we look back on past seasons, that’s not the position we’ve been fighting for, so we need to improve," the goalkeeper said, per his club’s official website. "We’ve strung together a series of wins that we need to ensure lasts a bit longer."
Their form has much improved, and now they face a team who beat them earlier in the campaign, Cyril Thereau’s second-half goal enough to earn Udinese a win at Juventus Stadium. Discussing the start his side made to 2015/16—taking just one point from their opening three games—Allegri was extremely candid when asked which of those matches he’d like to replay.
"The first one with Udinese," the Juve boss told Sky Italia (h/t Football Italia), "because we were too frenetic and played well for 77 minutes, then conceded the decisive goal on their only attempt."
On Sunday, the reigning Serie A champions will have the chance to make amends, and they will certainly need to take it if they are to keep up the pressure on the teams who have joined them in the title hunt.
Date: Sunday, January 17, 2016
Time: 2 p.m. GMT/9 a.m. ET
Venue: Stadio Friuli, Udine
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (UK) BeInSports 1 (U.S.)
Live Stream: BT Connect (UK)
Last five domestic results:
|Fiorentina 3-0 Udinese||Lazio 0-2 Juventus|
|Udinese 0-4 Inter||Juventus 3-1 Fiorentina|
|Torino 0-1 Udinese||Carpi 2-3 Juventus|
|Udinese 2-1 Atalanta||Juventus 3-0 Hellas Verona|
|Carpi 2-1 Udinese||Sampdoria 1-2 Juventus|
Udinese: (3-5-2): Orestis Karnezis; Papa Wague, Danilo, Felipe; Silvan Widmer, Emmanuel Badu, Francesco Lodi, Manuel Iturra, Edenilson; Cyril Thereau, Antonio Di Natale
Unavailable: Alexander Merkel, Giovanni Pasquale, Maurizio Domizzi (all injured)
Juventus (3-5-2): Gigi Buffon; Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Alex Sandro; Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala
Unavailable: Andrea Barzagli, Mario Lemina, Rubinho and Roberto Pereyra (all injured)
Player to Watch
With some huge matches against the likes of AS Roma, Napoli and Bayern Munich looming on the horizon, Juventus will need their best players to shine if they are to continue their recent good progress.
Alvaro Morata certainly falls within that group, the striker essential to the Bianconeri as they enjoyed great success in all competitions last term. The 23-year-old netted crucial goals just when his side needed them but has failed to match that production thus far in the current campaign.
Indeed, his poor form was fully on display against Sampdoria last weekend, as discussed in this previous post. His last goal came in early October, but Allegri recently told Mediaset Premium that he is not worried about the former Real Madrid man’s lack of confidence.
"Was Morata sad? He has no reason to be sad. The sadder one feels, the less well things go," the Juve boss said (h/t Football Italia). "Let’s not forget Morata scored two decisive goals for Champions League qualification. Every campaign has ups and downs and he is working for the team."
If Morata is struggling to make an impact for the Turin giants, the same certainly cannot be said of Alex Sandro, the Brazilian wing-back thriving since joining the club from Porto last summer.
According to their official website, the Bianconeri paid €26 million for Sandro, who then signed a five-year contract. He has already begun to prove to be worth that high fee with a string of eye-catching performances, with the graphic in the tweet below highlighting his efforts against Hellas Verona.
Weighing in with three assists thus far, he is also defensively diligent and will be a difficult opponent for Udinese to contain when this contest gets underway. The task of stopping Sandro will likely fall to Silvan Widmer, a player believed to have no shortage of admirers after some consistently high-quality displays.
The Calcio Mercato website believes the 22-year-old is a transfer target for Juventus and Inter during the current transfer window, but he will need to be wary of the danger posed by Sandro at the Stadio Friuli.
Odds (via Odds Shark)
Away win: 1-2
Home win: 6-1