MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 00:19:23| >> :120:5142:5142:
Feb 14, 2021 at 11.30am UK at Stadio Olimpico
Veretout (5', 25' pen.), Pedro (90+3')
Pellegrini (56'), Veretout (71')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Preview: Roma vs. Udinese - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Roma and Udinese, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Still unbeaten at home this season, Roma welcome in-form Udinese to Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon, seeking to bounce back from another defeat to a major rival.

The Giallorossi's loss to Juventus last week was one of several against teams around them in the Serie A standings, but now they tackle mid-table opposition who have recently recovered from a rocky run at the end of 2020.

Match preview

Roma manager Paulo Fonseca pictured on January 15, 2021© Reuters

Ahead of Udinese's visit to the capital, fourth-placed Roma are currently undefeated in home league games, with a fine record of eight wins and three draws from their 11 contests at the Olimpico. In all, Paulo Fonseca's side are in the midst of a 15-match unbeaten streak on home soil in Serie A, dating back to July 2020.

However, on the road, Roma are ranked only 11th in Serie A following a fifth away defeat last Saturday, at the hands of Juventus. Though they often pulled the strings against the Bianconeri, their statistical dominance did not bear any fruit as they ultimately went down 2-0 at the Allianz Stadium.

Once again, on-loan striker Borja Mayoral deputised up front against the champions, following erstwhile captain Edin Dzeko's bitter fall-out with Fonseca last month, but there are signs that the Bosnian star - so integral to Roma's style of play - will now return to his rightful place in the starting lineup.

Not only have Dzeko's goals been missed, but also his gift for link-up play with those around him and the seven-goal striker could be back in the first XI for Sunday. In fact, Italian media report that his playing peers - including stand-in skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini - want the former Manchester City man to take the armband back too, but the club have apparently rejected that request.

Having trained separately from the rest of the squad at the end of January, when he was reportedly close to joining Inter in a swap deal with Alexis Sanchez, Dzeko has failed to score or provide an assist in his last four league appearances - the last time he endured a longer such streak was back in April 2019.

Fonseca will necessarily have to prioritise pragmatism and swallow his pride in ending the feud, as his personal future and the immediate aims of the club are reliant on a well-oiled attack, given that his defence remains unreliable when put to the test by elite sides. On Sunday, though, Roma will be expected to overcome more modest opposition to keep on track for a European spot next season.

Udinese's Kevin Lasagna celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on January 10, 2021© Reuters

Looking like a dead man walking last month, Udinese head coach Luca Gotti has since steered his men to eight points from their last four games, with two disciplined draws against top teams Atalanta and Inter allied to victories over Spezia and Verona.

Since the Zebrette's last defeat, only one goal has been conceded in 360 minutes - testifying to the remedial work undertaken by the manager on his defence. This weekend, Udinese could potentially register four clean sheets in a row for the first time since May 2012.

Leading the back three's contribution to such improvement has been the combination of experienced Dutch defender Bram Nuytinck and former Italy Under-21 international Kevin Bonifazi.

The 24-year-old centre-back recently stated that the turning point for Udinese came during a meeting when the squad expressed their exasperation with playing well without picking up points and committed to becoming more compact as a unit.

Now reaping the rewards of their hard work, the Friulani were indebted to Gerard Deulofeu's inspirational input against Verona - scoring one and forcing an own goal - and were able to secure a deserved result, even without suspended captain Rodrigo De Paul. Lifting them into 11th place - some seven places and nine points above the relegation zone - that win can provide the perfect preparation for a considerable challenge this week.

The last time Udinese met Roma, the Giallorossi emerged victorious at Dacia Arena in October, with Pedro scoring the only goal in the second half. Improving on that outcome in the reverse fixture seems a live possibility for Gotti's resurgent outfit, with all the pressure on the capital club to claim maximum points once more.

Roma Serie A form: WDLWWL
Roma form (all competitions): DLLWWL

Udinese Serie A form: LLDDWW

Team News

Edin Dzeko pictured in November 2018© Reuters

Edin Dzeko's possible inclusion is upmost in Roma fans' minds, as it remains to be seen whether their former captain will be reinstated to the first team in place of Borja Mayoral. Current skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini now returns following suspension, so versatile midfielder Bryan Cristante could drop out of the XI.

Just days before the first leg of their Europa League tie against Braga, manager Paulo Fonseca has welcomed back both Stephan El Shaarawy and Pedro to training, with the forward pair likely to start on the bench on Sunday.

Meanwhile, centre-back Marash Kumbulla is expected to continue in Fonseca's back three, as Chris Smalling remains out injured until the end of the month.

Udinese will also welcome back their influential leader, as captain and playmaker Rodrigo De Paul returns from a ban and could be the only change to a winning lineup that Luca Gotti will make, with fellow Argentinian Roberto Pereyra most likely to miss out due to a thigh problem.

As Ignacio Pussetto is still injured and Stefano Okaka has just returned after a long layoff, Spanish pair Gerard Deulofeu and Fernando Llorente are favourites to start in attack.

Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mancini, Ibanez, Kumbulla; Karsdorp, Villar, Veretout, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko

Udinese possible starting lineup:
Musso; Bonifazi, Nuytinck, Samir; Larsen, De Paul, Walace, Arslan, Zeegelaar; Deulofeu; Llorente

SM words green background

We say: Roma 2-1 Udinese

Though there is just cause to consider the case of improving Udinese to at least nick a point at the Olimpico, the excellent record of Roma on home turf is indicative of their formidable form in the capital.

Should Edin Dzeko reclaim his place at the heart of the attack - and with other integral attacking personnel returning from enforced absences this week - the hosts have enough guile and variety to prise open the visitors' increasingly mean defence.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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Edin Dzeko in action for Bosnia-Herzegovina on September 4, 2020
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Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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