Udinese flirted with relegation last season. The club needed 10 points in its last five games to guarantee another season in Serie A. Expectations for this season are not much higher.
After last season’s 12th place finish, Udinese had a quiet summer. Rodrigo Becão joined from Bahia in the Brazilian Serie A, but he is far from a major acquisition. Other than that, Udinese began the new campaign with the same team as last year.
Giampaolo Pozzo owns Udinese, and his son is the chief owner of Watford FC in the Premier League. The Pozzo family concerns itself much more with Watford. Udinese’s salaries are the third lowest in Serie A, and this undermines the entire project. Just ask Udinese fans.
There are a few bright spots. Rodrigo De Paul returns for another season. He led the squad in goals and assists last season. He will continue to lead Udinese’s attack this year.
Kevin Lasagna is another impact player. He only scored six goals last year, but he did finish with 12 the year before. Lasagna is a natural center forward, and he can be a capable target man for De Paul.
Udinese has enough talent up front to compete with most Serie A teams, and there are promising players in the midfield. However, they must be more consistent this year to avoid relegation.
Rodrigo De Paul is the most important piece to Udinese’s puzzle. He developed into one of Serie A’s most dynamic players last year. He can play any attacking position, but he’s best as an attacking midfielder.
De Paul is one of the best shooters in Serie A. He scored nine goals in all competitions last season. Four of these goals were from outside the box, per WhoScored. And De Paul is not afraid to shoot; he averaged almost two long shots on goal per game.
Although he has a powerful shot, De Paul’s vision is his best asset. He reads defenders well, and he always gets the ball to his teammates in dangerous areas. If only his teammates could finish...
If you stop De Paul, you stop Udinese. It’s really is that simple.
Player to Watch
Udinese, like other lower level Serie A teams, has a young squad. One of its most promising players is Rolando Mandragora.
Mandragora appeared in 36 total matches last year for Udinese. He followed up a strong season with a spot on Italy’s U-21 UEFA European Championship squad. In fact, he was the captain of the team.
Mandragora plays central midfield for Udinese. He is comfortable in a defensive role, and he tackles well for a midfielder. He also has the strength and the frame to dominate smaller midfielders.
Nonetheless, Mandragora can contribute to an attack. He can win possession in the midfield and then play long passes to his forwards. Plus, he managed to score three goals last season as a midfielder.
Look for Mandragora to try to cancel out Stefano Sensi in the midfield against Inter.
Igor Tudor starts the season as Udinese’s manager. This is Tudor’s second stint with Udinese. He also managed the squad for four games in 2018.
The manager role with Udinese does not come with much job security. Julio Velazquez began last season as manager, but he only lasted until November. Davide Nicola then took over until his dismissal in March. Tudor finally stepped in at the end of the season like he did the year before.
Tudor doesn’t have a lot of experience in Serie A. He only has 18 games under his belt. He did have success with Galatasaray in 2017, but that’s the only place where he finished with a winning percentage above 50%.
Tudor prefers to play with a three-man backline. Look for Udinese to line up in a 3-5-2 formation that’s not much different than Inter’s.
Run of Form
Win / Loss
Udinese started its season with a surprising 1-0 win against Milan. The Udinese defense stood strong in front of goalkeeper Juan Musso and limited Milan to zero shots on goal. Becão scored off a corner to give Udinese the win in his debut.
Game two didn’t finish nearly as well for Udinese. Udinese won the possession battle and had almost four times as many shots on goal as Parma. The scoreline showed quite the opposite. Lasanga gave Udinese an early lead, but Parma scored three unanswered goals and won 3-1.
Head to Head
Saturday’s game marks the 54th meeting between Inter and Udinese. Inter’s current record in these games is 28-11-14.
Inter and Udinese met twice in Serie A play last year. The meetings were far from thrilling. Inter won the first game at the San Siro 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Mauro Icardi. The second game ended in a scoreless draw.