Udinese and Juventus
meet in a top-of-the-table clash on Wednesday as Italy
finally plays what was intended to be the opening round of
matches in Serie A.
This week's fixtures were due to be played in late August
but had to be postponed when the players went on strike in a row
over collective rights.
The Italian Players' Union (AIC) wanted guarantees that
players who were no longer wanted by their clubs would not be
forced to train separately from their squads or be forced to
move. The clubs wanted their coaching staff to be allowed to
make the decision.
The two sides eventually reached a compromise and the season
kicked off with the second round of games.
Few could have imagined at the time that unassuming
Udinese's meeting with Juve would have been so significant.
Juventus top the table with 33 points from 15 games, two
ahead of Udinese and defending champions AC Milan.
Although they finished fourth last term, Udinese sold two of
their most influential players with Swiss midfielder Gokhan
Inler joining Napoli and Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez moving
Coach Francesco Guidolin, who still insists that his team's
target is to reach 40 points and avoid relegation, has managed
to cover for their absence without any high-profile
However, with little strength in depth and heavily dependent
on the goals of 34-year-old forward Antonio Di Natale, who
started on the substitutes bench in the 2-2 draw with Lazio at
the weekend, Udinese's third match in a week could prove taxing.
"We've had a battle in Europe and we are the only team in
Italy who have to play three matches in six games," said
Guidolin. "We have to dose our energies otherwise we'll be
exhausted by February."
Juventus, meanwhile, have enjoyed their best start to the
championship since returning to Serie A following the Calciopoli
match-fixing scandal which saw them stripped of the 2005 and
2006 titles and demoted.
Having finished seventh in each of the last two seasons,
Juve, under new coach Antonio Conte, now enjoy the only
remaining unbeaten record in any of Europe's big leagues.
Their big worry remains their wayward finishing which saw
them settle for a 2-0 win over lowly Novara on Sunday when they
could have had a hatful of goals.
"We will work a lot on this aspect, in the next games we'll
look to capitalise on this more to avoid giving me heart
problems," said Conte.
"However, I prefer to have this problem rather than others,
I'm happy at the way the team work their way through to goal."
In other matches, Milan visit Cagliari on Tuesday
while Lazio host Chievo on Wednesday.
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