A brief spell of rest is over as Roma return to Serie A action, seeking much-needed three points against bottom-half Udinese. Sunday’s encounter at the Stadio Olimpico pits the two sides with contrasting ambitions against each other.
While Roma bid to claim a top-four finish in Serie A since the 2017/18 season, Udinese’s only goal is to avoid relegation following a dreadful start to the new campaign. Jose Mourinho resorted to his old habits as Giallorossi put in a stubborn defensive performance in a tepid 0-0 Derby della Capitale draw against Lazio on the stroke of the international break.
Bereft of attacking aspirations, Roma achieved their ultimate goal, fending off Lazio, even at the expense of a third consecutive scoring blank in one of Serie A’s most iconic fixtures. That draw followed up a disheartening 2-0 Europa League loss to Slavia Prague. In Roma’s defense, they already had one foot in the knockout stages ahead of the kick-off.
However, Roma fans would hardly tolerate a third straight disappointment, especially if it was to be accompanied by another blank. Udinese could be just what the doctor ordered for Mourinho’s side, considering their perennial dominance in this matchup. The Friulians have left the capital empty-handed in 13 of their last 15 Serie A games at the Olimpico (W2, L13).
Hopeful on turning the tables on Roma, Udinese come into proceedings desperate to erase the memory of a 1-1 home draw against Atalanta last time out. Gabriele Cioffi’s men were on the verge of building on a morale-boosting 1-0 win at Milan before Ederson’s stoppage-time header stole two points from their grip.
It’s been a season of two halves for Roma. After registering just one victory in their first six league matches (D2, L3), they’ve only lost once in their six (W4, D1). Despite commencing this round outside the European spots, the home side’s upturn in form has catapulted them within a three-point distance of fourth-placed Napoli.
Much of the credit goes to their illustrious home form. Back-to-back winless home games to kick things off in the 2023/24 Serie A season (D1, L1) cast doubt on Roma’s home credentials. But six victories on the trot since have solidified their reputation as one of the most formidable hosts in Italy.
Before staging a sensational late comeback to beat Lecce 2-1 last time out, Giallorossi’s five previous home triumphs had come ‘to nil.’ That fits the recent narrative of this fixture, as Roma have won three successive home league games against Udinese without conceding since a 2-0 defeat in July 2020.
Player to Watch: Romelu Lukaku
Fresh off bagging an incredible first-half quadruple in Belgium’s 5-0 win against Azerbaijan, Lukaku aims to continue his free-scoring form and add to his six-goal Serie A haul.
Udinese have established themselves as ‘stalemate specialists’ in the early exchanges. Eight of their 12 Serie A outings have ended level (W1, L3), a tally unmatched in Europe’s top-five leagues. In fact, since the start of last season, the Friulians have drawn 21 league matches, more than any other side in Europe’s five most elite divisions.
Against this backdrop, none of their last 15 visits to Roma have seen the share of the spoils. With his team languishing only two points above the relegation zone, Cioffi would probably sign up for another draw before the kick-off. But Udinese’s only win across their last 16 league games has come on the road.
It leaves a small window of hope, though ending a three-game scoring drought at the Olimpico against Mourinho’s well-organized backline is barely another day in the office.
Player to Watch: Lazar Samardzic
No stranger to scoring against Roma, Samardzic will warrant Mourinho’s undivided attention on Sunday. Seven of his last nine goals have come beyond halftime, meaning the hosts must watch out for him in the second half.
Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini is on the cusp of regaining full fitness after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, leaving Mourinho with only three high-profile absentees. Chris Smalling, Marash Kumbulla, and Tammy Abraham are still working toward recovery.
As for Udinese, Gerard Deulofeu, Enzo Ebosse, Thomas Kristensen, Kingsley Ehizibue, Keinan Davis, and Brenner are not in contention for the matchday squad due to injuries.
Roma vs Udinese Potential Lineups
Roma (3-5-2): Rui Patricio; Diego Llorente, Evan Ndicka, Gianluca Mancini; Rick Karsdorp, Bryan Cristante, Leandro Paredes, Edoardo Bove, Leonardo Spinazzola; Paulo Dybala, Romelu Lukaku.
Udinese (3-5-1-1): Marco Silvestri; Jaka Bijol, Nehuen Perez, Joao Ferreira; Festy Ebosele, Lazar Samardzic, Walace, Martin Payero, Jordan Zemura; Roberto Pereyra; Isaac Success.
Roma vs Udinese Prediction
Udinese haven’t conceded more than once in any of their last five league contests, which means Roma will probably have to work their socks off to find a way past Marco Silvestri. But we still believe Mourinho’s side will take three points here, albeit it won’t be a routine win.
Prediction: Roma Win
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