Tuesday night saw Udinese win the 1st leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final, beating Fiorentina 2-1 at the Stadio Friuli. The win made it 3 our of 3 for the Zebrette in the cup competition which, for a side as inconsistent as Udinese have been this season, is a big deal.
Luis Muriel’s fantastic 83rd minute strike edged Udinese in front before the return leg in Florence in a game that could well salvage a poor season for the side from Udine. Udinese sit 15th in Serie A with 23 points from 22 games, a performance that has been far too reminiscent of the 2009/10 season that saw Udinese finish 15th on 44 points and lead to the managerial sackings of Pasquale Marino and Gianni De Biasi. Marino would return to the helm at the back end of February and finish the season before trading roles with Parma manager Francesco Guidolin.
It had appeared that Francesco Guidolin had instilled stability and consistency into the Zebrette until this season. The loss of key defender Mehdi Benatia to Serie A rivals Roma, injuries to impressive young forward Muriel and the struggling form of talisman Antonio Di Natale have all been factors that have worked against the Udinese boss. Udinese’s lack of consistency from front to back has been the big issue for Guidolin however; just 4 clean sheets in the league so far this season and defender Thomas Hertaux (4 goals) being the club’s leading league scorer when excluding penalties from Di Natale’s total of 6 goals underline the club’s issues.
Despite his side’s poor form, however, Guidolin has remained positive; on many occasions the experienced manager has stated that his side are confident they can end their poor run and are ‘ready to prove a point’. Guidolin’s positivity over the last month seems to finally be taking effect on his young side, with them winning 3 of their last 5 in all competitions since the diabolical display that saw them finish with 9 men and a 3-0 defeat away at Sampdoria.
2 of those wins have come in the Coppa Italia but the one that didn’t was the 2-0 win at Bologna; a win that showed a side of Udinese that hadn’t been present for most of the season. The Zebrette seemed buoyed by their success in the cup and had enough mentally to shrug off defeat to Parma a week earlier and show a resilience in their performance that had been lacking for most of the season.
Having won in Bologna and again mid-week with that 2-1 victory over Fiorentina, Udinese host Chievo on Saturday with probably their best chance of the season to finally string 3 wins together and give everybody at the club a huge lift ahead of that 2nd leg in Florence.
Nobody could blame Guidolin for already having next season in mind; realizing that the best they can hope from this season would be a mid-table finish to garner some momentum heading into the 2014/15 Serie A campaign. To do that however they’ll need to get some confidence from somewhere and lifting the Coppa Italia could very well be the huge boost everybody at the club needs.