Juve to end inconsistency woes against Udinese?

Juve to end inconsistency woes against Udinese?

After riding a rollercoaster of emotions during the past few days, Juventus return to the more prosaic task of taking on Serie A strugglers Udinese on Saturday. Joy from the Bianconeri’s thrilling comeback in the seven-goal thriller against Roma soon dissipated in midweek, as they were beaten by a last-minute goal from their bitterest rivals in the Supercoppa Italiana.

After being dramatically edged out in a high-stakes Derby d’Italia on Wednesday evening, Juventus found themselves back in the increasingly familiar territory of being second best to arch-foes Inter, who last year dethroned them as kings of Serie A.

With the final kick of a match apparently heading to penalties, substitute Alexis Sanchez sealed the champions’ first Supercoppa since 2010 by turning home a 121st-minute winner at San Siro. Such a deflating defeat in Juve’s 10th straight appearance in one of Calcio’s showpiece occasions brought them right back down to earth, after a stunning fightback just three days previously in Rome.

By contrast with their hosts, Udinese’s win in their last away league match at Cagliari came after collecting four defeats and three draws in their previous seven games on the road – indicating their struggle to find fluency outside of Udine.

Matches against both Salernitana and Fiorentina had previously been postponed either side of the winter break, so Udinese still have a game or two in hand on most of their rivals in the scrap for survival.

Max Allegri’s options will be bolstered by having both Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs de Ligt back from suspension, though Aaron Ramsey again joins long-term injury victim Federico Chiesa on the sidelines. Juve were recently hit by news of an ACL tear sustained against Roma for the flying winger, who is now out for the rest of the season. The Bianconeri are expected to drop Mattia Perin, who replaced Wojciech Szczesny in goal in midweek, with the latter hoping to fare better after a shaky 2021, having claimed glory for stopping a spot-kick in the victory over Roma.

Udinese’s squad, meanwhile, are still on the road back to full fitness after nearly a week in quarantine, which ended only shortly before their heavy loss to Atalanta. Of the 12 players who have recently tested positive, a number may remain unavailable – potentially including Jean-Victor Makengo, Ilija Nestorovski and Dutch wing-back Marvin Zeegelar. Rodrigo Becao is suspended and Gabriele Cioffi has also lost another Brazilian centre-back, Samir, to Premier League side Watford since the transfer window opened, but Croatian defender Filip Benkovic has arrived on a free transfer from Leicester City in his place.

It was, though, a crushing home defeat that proved an unsatisfactory start to 2022 last Sunday, with Gabriele Cioffi’s side previously posting consecutive four-goal wins in the Coppa Italia and Serie A – seeing off Crotone 4-0 in the cup before putting four past Cagliari without reply.

While that pair of wins to end last year pulled them clear of the drop zone and promised brighter times under a fresh face in the dugout – Cioffi taking up the reins from Luca Gotti in December – the Bianconeri’s belated return from a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp brought about a 6-2 reverse at the hands of Atalanta.

However, taking anything from their encounter with Juve will come as a welcome bonus, given they have lost nine of their last 12 meetings with the Old Lady.

Our verdict is a 3-1 victory for Juve.