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Serie A Weekly welcomes writer Luca Cetta to our pages

Udinese and Juventus played out a 0-0 draw at the Stadio Friuli in Wednesday evening’s early Serie A kick-off.

The winner would go first, but in a match of few clear cut chances, Juve remains unbeaten while Udinese’s home winning streak has come to an end.

Claudio Marchisio had two first half efforts which both ended wide of Samir Handanovic’s goal, while the Zebrette threatened after Giorgio Chiellini’s error required Gianluigi Buffon to rush out and stop Mauricio Isla’s lob.

Chiellini climbed highest early in the second half from an Andrea Pirlo corner to force a smart save down low from Handanovic, while Buffon tipped a Danilo header over the bar at the other end.

Stephan Lichtsteiner and Antonio Di Natale both wasted promising late chances, as Francesco Guidolin was sent to the stands after exchanging words with the referee.

While Udinese started with their usual formation, Juventus Coach Antonio Conte utilised a 3-5-2 system as against Napoli. On this occasion the Turin giants looked more assured. Surprisingly, Simone Pepe started in support of Alessandro Matri, rather than Fabio Quagliarella or Alessandro Del Piero. In the end, the visitors enjoyed 53% possession and had 17 shots, including five on target, while Udinese produced nine shots, four on target.

The formation change meant the teams were evenly matched. With Di Natale and Matri marked, plus both Almen Abdi and Pepe roaming in free roles behind, the only free players were one of the three central defenders. For Juve, Chiellini came out from the back and could get into advanced positions. There was little joy for the wingbacks: Dusan Basta, Pablo Armero, Marcelo Estigarribia and Lichtsteiner struggled to get into dangerous areas consistently.

Juventus aimed to defend deep, limiting the chance of being caught on the break. Udinese’s fabled counter-attacks were lacking. It took until the 89th minute for a genuine counter-attack and chance to be registered. On that particular occasion, Di Natale fired wide. In general, the captain was disappointing; either caught offside by the solid Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, or below par in his decision making and execution.

At the other end, Matri had a dirty day. His movement off the ball was let down by his poor touch and passing when in possession. Pepe’s movement in the first half failed to stretch the Udinese defence. This is where Juve lacked Mirko Vucinic, as the Montenegrin is able to pull players away from Matri. Udinese looked solid at the back for most of the evening, as they have been all season at home. Their home defensive record now stands at two goals conceded in eight matches.

The pressing employed by both sides was a feature of the contest and helped ensure a tight battle. Udinese knew of Juve’s desire to play the ball out from defence, especially when Buffon has control of the ball, and made sure to press deep. Particularly on one occasion where Bonucci pressured right on the line and forced to concede a corner. Abdi was the main player to harass and chase. His closest opponent tended to be Pirlo, but he was free to apply pressure where required.

These factors combined to ensure a closely fought battle. With first place up for grabs, Juve altered their formation and sat back, which Udinese did not mind but could not take advantage of. The system change meant few free players available to benefit from the space. Overall, it was a fair result; the two coaches did their homework and will generally be content with their performance.


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