ROME - Tucked away in the northeast
corner of Italy near the Slovenian border, the small city of
Udine seems an unlikely spot for the Serie A top scorer and one
of the world's top young strikers to be both plying their trade.
But Udinese have big football pedigree and victory in Sunday's
simple-looking home game with struggling Catania will
strengthen their grip on fourth and a Champions League
The Friuli region where the club are based was the
birthplace of several top football names, including England
coach Fabio Capello, but Udinese's two rampaging forwards hail
from very different parts of the world.
Naples-born Antonio Di Natale banged in an astonishing 29
league goals last season to top Italy's scoring charts but then
suffered a poor World Cup and has been cast aside by the
Unperturbed and after refusing a move to once mighty
Juventus to stay with his beloved Udinese, the 33-year-old has
continued to savage Serie A keepers and is league top scorer
again with 24 goals from 29 games.
His strike partner Alexis Sanchez, 22, is from Chile and has
managed 12 league goals this term, prompting interest from some
of Europe's big clubs with sums in excess of 20 million euros
being bandied about in the media.
Inter Milan were very interested in January but dogged
Udinese clung on to their prize asset for a few months at least,
just like they have with midfielder Gokhan Inler after years of
transfer speculation linking the talented Swiss with a move.
"All the group work really well, not just our forwards,"
coach Francesco Guidolin told www.udinese.it.
"I've always thought that we have a quality squad and that's
why I've never made requests to the club. I have always believed
in my club and my players."
Guidolin surprised Serie A observers when he returned to his
former club in the close season despite leading Parma to eighth
spot last term when Udinese finished 15th.
His gamble proved a good one as they now target a return to
the Champions League following their 2005 experience at Europe's
Catania have failed to find a significant pickup in form
despite tough taskmaster Diego Simeone taking charge in January
but last weekend's 1-0 win against Sampdoria at least gave them
a four-point cushion over the drop zone.
Leaders AC Milan visit Palermo on Saturday with
striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic starting a three-game ban and next
opponents Inter, five behind their rivals in second with nine
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