It’s now been more than a whole calendar year since Udinese last suffered defeat at the Stadio Friuli, after a disastrous 4-1 defeat to Scudetto holders Juventus. It’s been 20 games since then, with the Zebrette managing to win 12 of them. Not the most intimidating of stadiums, Stadio Friuli is Udinese’s home, a place where they can control possession; where la tifosi can hail their hero, Toto Di Natale; where wonderfully talented youngsters can make a name for themselves before moving on to pastures new and, in the near future, where a stadium they’ll be able to call their own will stand. Fabio Liverani will be well aware of Udinese’s impressive home record, especially given that Genoa have failed to score in 6 of their last 10 away games, a worrying stat for any manager. The Derby della Lanterna was a massively important game for both the young manager, with several journalists within the game already predicting his tenure to be over before it had barely even started. A monumental 3-0 victory against their fiercest rivals, was enough to ease the pressure on the young manager for the time being.
Udinese are coming off the back of a 2-1 loss to Chievo, meaning they are – like Genoa – on 4 points after 4 games. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Bianconeri’s veteran striker, Antonio Di Natale, didn’t start the match at the Bentegodi, but was introduced at half-time due to a lack of influence in attack. Guidolin’s decision to start Di Natale on the bench was surprising, although completely justified, given that he’s now 36 years of age. One of the toughest tasks this season for Guidolin, along with keeping Luis Muriel fit, will be to maintain the physical health of the striker who, for the fourth successive season, managed to score over 20 goals last campaign. With Di Natale being unable to play as regularly as last season, there will be a lot more focus on both the young Colombian, Muriel, and Maicosuel, who has finally been forgiven for the failed panenka penalty, which cost Udinese qualification to last season’s Champions League group stages.
A wonderful player in his day, Fabio Liverani, at just 37, has had to make the quick change to the manager of Italy’s most historic team. Alike Liverani himself, Genoa’s Calcio Mercato was very efficient this summer, with many young players coming in, to provide a much needed improvement in technical ability. Sime Vrsaljko, one of Genoa’s summer signings, performed flawlessly in there 3-0 demolition of Sampdoria, and has shown good signs of combining with Genoa’s most dangerous attacking threat, Centurion. To defeat Udinese today, Liverani’s side will need to involve both of the aforementioned greatly when attacking, and allow Alberto Gilardino to make the most of his superb ability to finish inside the box.
Given Udinese’s home form – and Genoa’s away performances – a home win is the most obvious result. However, Guidolin’s side hasn’t got out of second gear yet, and with Muriel a doubt for the game, the Rossoblu won’t be ruling out the possibility of causing a major upset at the Friuli tonight.