Inter’s 2-0 win over Juventus is the highlight of Inter’s season so far, but the Nerazzurri can’t afford to let the monumental result go to waste when it travels to Udinese in the final Serie A matchday of the first half of the 2020/21 campaign.
This is the same Udinese of years past, in terms of both playing style and position in the table. Luca Gotti’s side defend with numbers in a sturdy 3-5-2 formation and rely on the magic of Rodrigo De Paul to provide a spark in the final third. On paper, it seems to be enough for a mid-table finish; Udinese is 7th in the league on expected points and in the middle of the pack defensively (its 29 goals conceded are 10th), though its expected goals against is 4th-least. It’s the final third where the Friulani really struggle, however, and that’s why Udinese is all the way down in 15th and in danger of relegation.
Udinese has put the ball in the back of the net only 20 times (4th least in the league). That’s no fault of De Paul, who has been as good as ever in 2020/21. He has 4 goals and 1 assist, and forms a dangerous duo with attacking midfielder Roberto Pereyra (2g, 4a). But Udinese is desperately missing a quality striker to turn chances into goals. The Zebrette have under-performed its expected goals scored by 8 so far. Ignacio Pussetto looked to be the best option up front, scoring 3 in 11 games before suffering a long-term ACL injury. Kevin Lasagna has since stepped into the starting role, but to little success. He may have an expected goals scored of 7, but Lasagna has put just two into the back of the net.
Inter’s midfield did remarkedly well against Juventus, but a very different threat is on the cards Saturday. De Paul is the engine of Udinese, and his midfield role is just as important as the goal-scoring threat he provides. The Argentine has the second most passes completed on the Friulani, has traveled the most distance (16,883 yards/15,437 meters), and created 91 shots (53 ahead of the next closest player). If Inter can manage to shut him down, Udinese will be shut down as well. But an in-form De Paul is one of the best midfielders in the league, and how he stacks up with Inter’s midfield trio will be a fascinating encounter.
Udinese hasn’t scored against Inter in its last five trys, part of a winless run against the Nerazzurri going back to 2017. Inter’s record since the Friulani’s last victory is 8 wins, 1 tie, 0 defeats.
- 1-0 (H), 14/9/19
- 2-0 (A), 2/2/20
Predicted Starting XIs
For once, it isn’t Inter which will be coming into a weekend fixture on short rest. Udinese was in action midweek with a rescheduled Matchday 10 clash against Atalanta, which ended all square at 1-1. With that draining effort from Gotti’s men so recent, the hosts may rotate slightly Saturday. Inter meanwhile will regain the services of Matias Vecino, who is finally recovering from his lengthy injury spell. Mateo Darmian is also nearing full fitness, though Danilo D’Ambrosio is still unavailable. With a Coppa Italia quater-final against Milan on the horizon, Antonio Conte could make a few changes, but the title race is too tight for much rotation.
Prediction: Udinese 0-2 Inter Milan
Udinese comes into this off the back of a 8 game winless run, and I’ll predict it extends to 9. The hosts won’t concede many chances, but Lukaku and Co. will take advantage of what they can in a business-like win for Inter. But then again, if there was ever a trap game, it would be this one...