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Udinese currently occupy the fourth position in Serie A, leading challengers Roma, by two points. If they stay in this position, they’ll qualify for next season’s Champion’s League; albeit in the preliminary qualifying round. This would be a remarkable success for a team, who are not regular features on Europe’s grandest stage.

The club last appeared in the tournament in 05/06, after Luciano Spalletti had guided them to a remarkable fourth place. They qualified for the group stages by Sporting Lisbon 4-2 in the qualifying stages. Drawn in a group containing Barcelona, Panathinaikos and Werder Bremen, it was going to be a tough challenge for the Italian side to progress.

Things started well, with a 3-0 win over Panathinaikos in their opening game; Iaquinta inspiring them. But disappointing results followed and they only finished third; behind Barcelona and Werder Bremen.

It has taken five years for the club to reach such heights again. Now led by Francesco Guidolin, they have a realistic chance of claiming qualification. Neutrals can look forward to seeing an exciting, attacking brand of football unleashed; Alexis Sanchez and Antonio Di Natale will terrorize defences.

Success has been built through patience and a vast scouting network, who specialise in South American imports. In the current team, Alexis Sanchez, Mauricio Isla, Christian Zapata and Juan Cuadrado are all testament to this.

Guidolin has carefully nurtured his young protégés and instilled them a belief that they can win at all costs. A 2-1 win away to Napoli showcased their drive and motivation; it was a game few expected them to get anything from, due to injuries sustained, yet they rose up and stunned Cavani and co.

Despite the attacking threat, the side has a solid base. The Slovenian, Samir Handanovic has been an ever-present in goal since being made 1st choice in 2007. There have been rumours Europe’s top clubs are keen on the shot-stopper, but the Italians will be loath to let him go.

Christian Zapata has also attracted the attention of larger clubs. His all-out approach to defending has seen him establish himself at the heart of defence and he helps lead the team.
Then there’s the combative midfielder, Gokhan Inler. Of all the players who may leave this summer, it is the Swiss. He has long been trailed by the likes of Internazionale, but he has stayed put. This summer, Udinese are set to cash in and use the funds to strengthen elsewhere. Napoli are favourites for his signature, as they also look to assemble a side strong enough to compete in the Champions League.

Mention should go to Antonio “Totó” Di Natale, the captain. The Captain has a sensational scoring record and currently has 28 league goals to his name this season. He turned down a summer move to Juventus, opting to stay at his favoured club, stating that sometimes money isn’t everything. He’ll be looking forward to testing himself against Europe’s defences once more and they should be scared.

Finally, perhaps most significant this season has been the rise of Alexis Sanchez a Chilean winger with an eye for goal. He played for his country at last year’s World Cup, which helped to boost his profile. But it is this season that has enhanced his reputation; netting 12 goals in 27 appearances. The highlight of which, was scoring 4 goals in a 7-0 demolition of Palermo.

Now Sanchez is being heavily linked to the world’s richest club, Manchester City. The Italian manager, Roberto Mancini, appears to have made signing Sanchez his top priority this summer; possible as a replacement for Carlos Tevez, should the Argentinean move to Inter. But Udinese’s president, Giampaolo Pozzo, insists he will not sell the winger. Will Sanchez try to force a move? Serie A must certainly hope not.

If this team does qualify for the Champions League, it can only be a positive for Calcio. They are a direct contrast to the stereotype of catenaccio; they won’t bore the opposition to sleep. European teams should fear Udinese, if they don’t, they will learn to quickly.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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  • ted

    Udinese are a selling club.
    Sanchez,Isla,Zapata,and Inler will all be gone in a few months.
    How is that good for Serie A?
    Talk about being delusional.
    Roma or Juventus would of been better options for 4th place.

  • Ryan Ross

    Ted the point I’m trying to make is that if they keep hold of their players, then they’ll be able to do well. Compare it to Spurs in the EPL if you like; unknown’s in Europe who went far because they didn’t sell players and the opposition didn’t know what to expect from them.

  • Ron Rossi

    These players are gone for sure (except Di Natale), That is
    how Udinese Rolls. Too Bad as i believe they make Serie A
    more exciting and others would have followed there success.

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