Udinese faces Serie A leader Juventus

Udinese faces Serie A leader Juventus

MILAN - The Associated Press
Udinese faces Serie A leader Juventus

Udinese’s veteran forward Antonio Di Natale is on top form for Udinese as usual, scoring 10 goals in 14 games. REUTERS photo

Unfancied Udinese faces Serie A leader Juventus tonight in a top of the table clash that could reveal much about the sides’ title chances.

Udinese lost ground to Juventus on Dec. 25 when it was held to a 2-2 draw at Lazio while Antonio Conte’s men beat Novara 2-0 to move two points clear at the top of the league.

AC Milan, which is level on points with Udinese, was facing Cagliari yesterday. The game was still in progress when Hürriyet Daily News went to press.

Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin recently said his main target is to avoid relegation, but striker Antonio Floro Flores - who scored his first of the season against Lazio - has loftier ambitions.

“The game against Juventus is a battle for the league and we want to fight for it right until the end,” Floro Flores said. “I’m glad I got the goal because the coach is putting a lot of trust in me. I want to score lots more now.”

The match - as well as the rest of the midweek’s fixtures - should have been played on the opening day of the season and now takes on extra significance, coming just before the winter break.

The first round of the Serie A season was postponed because of a players’ strike.

Something has to give at the Stadio Friuli where Udinese have won all seven of their games this season but Juventus turn up as the league’s only team yet to lose a match this campaign.

Juventus missed several chances against Novara and Conte is keen to see his players be more clinical in front of goal.

“We have worked and will work a lot on this aspect,” Conte said. “We’ll try to capitalize on out chances more in the next game, also so I can avoid heart problems.

“However, I prefer to have these problems than others. Now we want to close this positive year in the best of ways against Udinese.” Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic and defender Leonardo Bonucci, who were both suspended for the victory over Novara, return to face Udinese.

Elsewhere, Inter Milan is looking to continue its recent revival. A drab 1-0 victory at struggling Cesena was Inter’s fifth win in six games, a run of results that has pushed Claudio Ranieri’s team up to fifth in the standings, 10 points behind Juventus.

It hosts another struggling team on Wednesday as it entertains rock-bottom Lecce, which has just nine points from 15 games.

Novara, which is also in the drop zone, plays Palermo, which sacked Devis Mangia on Dec. 19 following one win in five games. The other team in the bottom three, Cesena, travels to Atalanta.

Napoli take on Genoa looking to arrest a miserable slide down the table. Walter Mazzarri’s team lost 3-1 to Roma on Sunday and has now only won once in seven Serie A games.

It will be without key player Ezequiel Lavezzi after the striker injured his right thigh against Roma. Lavezzi will be sidelined for at least a month.

Elsewhere tonight, it’s: Bologna vs. Roma, Lazio vs. Chievo, and Parma vs. Catania, where Maxi Lopez could be playing his last game for the Sicilian side.

Maxi Lopez is likely to leave Catania in the winter transfer window — move to AC Milan has been touted. The striker left the field in tears when he was substituted midway through the second half in the 2-0 home victory against Palermo at the weekend.