MX23RW : Thursday, April 22 01:14:38| >> :600:191947:191947:
Apr 10, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadio Friuli
FT(HT: 0-0)
Belotti (61' pen.)
Mandragora (40'), Buongiorno (49'), Zaza (90+2')

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

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

Still embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, 17th-placed Torino travel to meet mid-table Udinese on Saturday carrying only a two-point buffer over the nearest member of the bottom three.

Their hosts' improved fortunes in the second half of the season, meanwhile, have afforded them a potentially serene conclusion to their Serie A campaign despite suffering back-to-back losses in recent weeks.

Match preview

Torino's Nicolas Nkoulou pictured in July 2020© Reuters

Even with a game and two points in hand on closest rivals to avoid the drop Cagliari, there remains a tremendous amount of pressure on Torino's underperforming players ahead of their journey to Udine this week.

Despite a relative lack of points, performances have markedly improved since boyhood fan Davide Nicola came into the club, and his team were the more impressive in an eventful 2-2 Derby della Mole draw with city rivals Juventus last Saturday.

Now surely galvanised by a Turin Derby in which they led until Cristiano Ronaldo's late equaliser thwarted their chance of maximum points, Il Toro are obliged to improve on their final output, away to more modest opposition.

Only one win, at home to Sassuolo, in their last five games played - then three defeats, before the draw last weekend - leaves Nicola's men in danger of requiring a positive result from their match in hand (previously postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club) which is a tricky test against top-four contenders Lazio.

Their hopes of success at the Dacia Arena - and at home to Roma next week - were shaken when yet another case of the virus was detected in the first team squad this week, with goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu reported to be the unfortunate one to have been infected and now facing a spell in quarantine.

If confirmed, former Paris Saint-Germain stopper Sirigu would be the eighth Italy international to test positive for COVID-19 since returning from the recent World Cup qualifying camp. Certainly, his absence would be a bitter blow for the Granata as they head into a crucial phase of their attempt to defy demotion.

Udinese head coach Luca Gotti pictured on February 14, 2021© Reuters

During their second straight loss last week, Udinese remained in contention against high-flying Atalanta right until the 90th minute but ultimately left Bergamo without even a point.

That 3-2 defeat followed another close-run affair at Lazio just before the international period, when they went down to an unfortunate 1-0 defeat against the capital club.

Still comfortably in mid-table despite the recent downturn, their loss against Simone Inzaghi's side was the Bianconeri's only home defeat since early January and Adam Marusic's winner that day has been the only goal conceded in their last five games on home soil - underlining how coach Luca Gotti has shored up his defence since the turn of the year.

Ahead of Saturday's game, Gotti and company can also reflect on a positive result when the two sides last met in Serie A, as Udinese won 3-2 at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino in December, with influential captain Rodrigo de Paul again on the scoresheet.

As speculation persists that the Argentinian playmaker will finally depart the safe surrounds of the Friuli for pastures new this summer, the fact that the club's top scorer is not one of several misfiring strikers but a midfielder with six goals and six assists is telling. A handful more goals this term would help Udinese reach the magical 40 points mark, though, and seal a fond farewell for the Zebrette's talented talisman.

Udinese Serie A form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • L

Torino Serie A form:
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • D

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Team News

Torino's Wilfried Singo in action in November 2020© Reuters

Injured wing-back Wilfried Singo (thigh) and central defender Lyanco (back) are expected to remain absent for Torino on Saturday, with first-choice goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu apparently now sidelined by COVID-19.

Vanja Milinkovic-Savic and Samir Ujkani are the options to cover Sirigu's absence, while Ujkani's fellow Kosovo international Mergim Vojvoda may continue on the right flank as Singo misses out.

Experienced centre-back Nicolas Nkoulou is available for coach Davide Nicola to select, but may not be risked from the start, with Alessandro Buongiorno instead keeping his place in the Toro back three.

January signing Antonio Sanabria has four goals in his first five Serie A appearances for the club and will join Andrea Belotti up front, with Simone Verdi likely tucked in behind.

Udinese have prepared for the game with an almost fully fit squad to choose from, with the exceptions being long-term injury victims Ignacio Pussetto and Mato Jajalo - both out until the end of the season - and Dutch defender Bram Nuytinck, who came off injured against Atalanta.

Luca Gotti hopes to have the injury-prone Gerard Deulofeu back from his struggles with knee inflammation, but he is not likely to start.

Due to their continuing lack of effectiveness - having been outscored and outshone by Argentinian midfielders Roberto Pereyra and Rodrigo De Paul - the hosts' front pair could be any two from Stefano Okaka, Ilija Nestorovski, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Forestieri or even young Manchester City loanee Jayden Braaf, who surprisingly started last week.

Udinese possible starting lineup:
Musso; Becao, Bonifazi, Samir; Molina, De Paul, Walace, Pereyra, Zeegelaar; Forestieri, Llorente

Torino possible starting lineup:
Milinkovic-Savic; Izzo, Buongiorno, Bremer; Vojvoda, Rincon, Mandragora, Verdi, Ansaldi; Sanabria, Belotti

SM words green background

We say: Udinese 1-2 Torino

Torino's desperation to claw their way closer to safety could work for them or even against them versus a more relaxed and occasionally dangerous Udinese side this weekend.

However, the Granata's goal threat has increased significantly since 'Tonny' Sanabria came into the XI, and the Paraguayan marksman can inspire his fellow forwards - including club captain and top scorer Andrea Belotti - to chip in with some vital returns at the Friuli.

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Juventus attacker Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the Serie A clash with Benevento on March 21, 2021
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