There was a time, not that long ago, when all one had to do when discussing Roma and Udinese was to wax poetically about the virtues of Antonio Di Natale and Francesco Totti. Toto and Totti combined for over 600 goals (all comps) throughout their illustrious careers, entertaining Serie A fans for a combined four decades. While Toto wasn’t quite Totti’s equal, his cast an equally large shadow over his adopted home club, and while the Zebras actually fared slightly better in their first year without them, you just don’t fear this particular dazzle (look it up) as much.
So, does that necessarily make this a trap game, and for that matter is any game involving Roma safe? Intuitively we know the answer to that question, but it may come as a shock to learn that Roma has beaten Udinese in eight straight league matches and hasn’t even dropped a single point to the Zebras since the spring of 2013. In fact, Roma has won 15 of their past 20 league fixtures against Udinese.
Roma v. Udinese: September 23, 15:00 CET/9:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Pretty impressive, so can they continue that trend or is Udinese due for some good fortune?
Roma’s Functionally Fabulous Fullbacks
While Eusebio Di Francesco’s Roma remains very much a work in progress, if their recent run of form is any indication, EDFs squad has suddenly become a functioning fullback factory—crazy, right? After years and years and years of churning through fullbacks like so many pieces of gum, Monchi and EDF have apparently broken the hex.
With the addition of Aleksandar Kolarov, many thought Roma had, at the very least, a solid stop gap solution until the return of Emerson Palmieri, but AK 11 has turned into so much more. Kolarov, one of only three members of the squad to have logged each every league minute this season, is seemingly settling into the latter stage of his career with gusto, serving as one of Roma’s primary playmakers, leading the club in key passes and crosses per match (minimum 200 minutes).
Considering his resume and prior Serie A experience, it was perfectly reasonable to expect Kolarov to be at least a replacement level player, so his second wind, as it were, has been the surprise of the season. However, with multiple surgeries on the same knee, no one knew what to expect from Alessandro Florenzi, and through his first 100 minutes on the pitch, it seems as though Ale is back in full force. Across that century of minutes, Florenzi is up to his old tricks; serving up crosses, creating scoring chances and producing some of the sexiest off-the-ball runs the sport has ever seen.
Point being, these two newly rejuvenated men have given Roma something she’s probably never had in her 90 years; two productive and proficient fullbacks. Throw in the impending returns of Palmieri and Rick Karsdorp and Roma is sitting pretty on the flank. Granted, improved fullback play isn’t the sole reason for Roma’s recent spark, but the dynamism provided by Kolarov and Florenzi gives EDFs attack some much needed balance and deception.
But is this new found sense of purpose enough to propel Roma back into the thick of the Serie A hunt? Udinese may not be world beaters, but they’re a class above Roma’s most recent opponents, and as such could serve a springboard to greater success.