For the first time since 2009, Luciano meets Udinese Calcio, AKA the Zebras. Udinese was undoubtedly the team where Luciano really made a name for himself in Italy and Europe, leading the Zebrette to a record fourth place and thus Champions League qualification in 2004. Unthinkable for the Fruili side. He caught the eye of the big ones like Juventus, but it was Roma who gave Spalletti his first shot on the big stage. The rest, as you know, is history.
Back to Udine: Surprising to know but it’s Italy’s second oldest team, after Genoa. They raised some pretty entertaining footballers recently, on top of my head I think of Alexis Sanchez, David Pizarro, Mauricio Isla and of course icon Antonio Di Natale. Still going strong at the age of 38, as old as Morgan Batman. Almost 400 appearances for Udine and tons of goals (Wiki says 191, all hail Wiki!). No need to say who’s going to be the biggest threat for Woj on Sunday. We also have quite a history with Udinese. Spalletti himself, Pizarro, Piris, De Sanctis, Marquinho, Nico Lopez, Abel Balbo, D’Agostino,…. And not that long ago we bought a very strong defender from the Zebrette: The Moroccan Monolith Benatia.
Anno 2016 Udine finds itself in an unusual position in the standings, just above the relegation zone. They may not fight for European spots, but they still boost some dangerous players like Kuzmanovic and Bren’s love interest Cyril Thereau (don’t really see what he could offer to Roma but I must be wrong anyway if Bren believes in him). That said, their midfield and defence is not the best thing Serie A has to offer so guys like Pjanic, Perotti, Salah and SES are going to have a field day.
And that my friends, is a warm and fuzzy thought. If the Roma from last week shows up (the Fiorentina thrashing), Udine are no match for us. The Roma side from the CL might also grab a win in Udine but then they can’t miss too many chances. They need to be a more clinical in front of goal. If Di Natale or Thereau get one decent chance, it could prove fatal for us. And then the Giallorossi will struggle to ultimately grab the 3 points. Juve already won their game, Napoli and Fiorentina face easy fixtures. We can’t afford to lose poins now and let all those previous wins go to waiste.
To sum it all up: Whatever line-up our dear coach Luciano fields tomorrow (Dzeko or not, three-men-defence or not, Totti or not), this Roma must always take home 3 points. That’s the burden you get after winning seven games in a row. The crowd always expects and demands more of you. Rightfully so because Spal really makes it click among his players.
Can’t stop now, won’t stop now. Go write that eighth symphony, you beautiful bald Beethoven.
*honorable mention to the site Romaforever.it which predicts Strootman will start in a 3-4-3 formation. My heroes.