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Lazio vs Udinese
Match Date: 25-09-2014
Location: Rome
Stadium Olimpico
Referee Rocchi
Time 20:45 CET
Lazio welcome Udinese to the Stadio Olimpico just days after suffering one of the most disappointing days in recent memory. It was all beginning to come together but within the space of 45 minutes, everything unravelled in dramatic fashion. Biglia stubbed his toe just before half-time - badly - and he could be out of action anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Basta bruised his hand - badly - and he is likely to miss the Udinese game at the very least. Then Gentiletti tore his anterior cruciate ligament - that's never good - and he is set to undergo surgery and is expected to be out for 6 months, if not the entire season. And on top of all that, Stefan De Vrij saw red and his absence left us one man short as Diego Perotti snuck in unmarked to pick out Mauricio Pinilla and resign us to a 1-0 defeat. Where do we go from here?

The good news is, we have no time to dwell on matters. Stefano Pioli sat the squad down on Monday morning to analyse the game, but we all know what needs to be improved; our finishing. We simply did not take our chances, and no amount of bad luck can excuse that. In an interview with LazioStyle Radio on Monday, Pioli alluded to this by saying that the fans should not be the difference-makers come Thursday as the players need to get the job done. The manager feels that there are many positives to Lazio's game at the minute, but that everyone has to continue working hard to ensure we go up a level.

With that statement in mind, I do not expect Pioli to change system for Udinese. As I said in the Genoa preview, the Udinese game may be the ideal time to re-introduce Federico Marchetti to the team, but not anymore. Pioli has none of his favoured back four available, and I cannot see him deciding to change the one constant he has at the back. In defence, Edson Braafheid - who must have Radu worrying about his future - will almost certainly start. I expressed doubts about his ability to play three games in quick succession, but with Basta and Radu sidelined and Konko looking more than a little off form, I am not convinced playing Cavanda, Pereirinha or Lulic at left-back is an attractive alternative for Pioli.

The manager's hands are tied in the centre. No Gentiletti, no De Vrij and Ciani did not even travel to Genoa such is his status at the club. Lorik Cana and Diego Novaretti will get another chance to prove themselves, unless Ciani seriously impresses in training. Pioli did mention Braafheid as a centre-back option when asked if Radu could feature at left centre-back this season, but it was not an idea the ex-Bologna manager expressed with any degree of enthusiasm. At right-back, Konko is clear favourite to start in Basta's absence, but he hardly covered himself in glory on Sunday and Cavanda and Pereirinha are more than capable, on their day.

Pioli had been toying with the idea of fielding Cristian Ledesma against Genoa, but decided to stick to his guns. It proved to be the correct decision; Ledesma was far from impressive against Genoa but with Gonzalez struggling with injury and Ogenyi Onazi untested in the role, I cannot see past Ledesma getting the nod for Udinese. Both Lulic and Parolo will be a touch jaded going into the game having had packed schedules in recent weeks, so I can see Pioli choosing to rest one, if not both. Lulic would be the obvious candidate to omit as he has not been particularly effective whereas captain Stefano Mauri has been a positive influence. The alternative would mean dropping Parolo in favour of Onazi, who signed a new deal on Monday, tying him to the club until 2018. That would be a nice reward for the Nigerian, but he has not played a competitive game for Lazio since being injured in the World Cup. In an ideal world, Pioli would gradually bring him back into the fold.

In attack, Pioli has tough choices to make. Filip Djordjevic is finishing like he has never seen a net before, but Miroslav Klose is not exactly one for the future. There are signs that Pioli is seriously considering giving Mamadou Tounkara his golden opportunity, but can our manager afford to take that risk with only three points on the board after three games? Candreva is another player who could well be jaded, but who can be relied upon if we give him the night off? This is a headache our manager could do without. I am inclined to think he will opt for the tried and trusted trio of Keita, Klose and Candreva, but Pioli could pull names out of a hat at this stage. None of our attacking players offer us any certainty at this time, and you can tell that is getting to Pioli.

Uncertainty is rarely a good thing, but we could work it to our advantage against Udinese. Andrea Stramaccioni fancies himself as a bit of a tactician; he set Udinese up against Juventus and Napoli to counteract their style rather than to play to the strengths of his own team. I would expect him to do the same at the Stadio Olimpico, but he will have difficulty predicting what we will do. Yes, we will most likely play a 4-3-3, but the changes in our personnel will inevitably alter our style of play. With only three days to prepare, Stramaccioni is limited with what he can do and has a troublesome task as a result.

Whereas Pioli's gameplan will be straight-forward; play like we did on Sunday, but take our chances. Udinese have a real backbone to their team - it would not surprise me if they came out on top in the possession stakes - but they are visibly struggling in wide areas so far this season. That will play into our hands. We need to keep it cool, keep Antonio Di Natale quiet, and strike when presented with the opportunity. Easier said than done, of course, but football is supposedly a simple game of outscoring your opposition over 90 minutes. Genoa proved that, right? Let's take a leaf out of their book.

Predicted line-up:
(4-3-3): Berisha; Konko, Novaretti, Cana, Braafheid; Parolo, Ledesma, Mauri; Candreva, Klose, Keita.

Writer: C
Team Name Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Lazio vs Udinese
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  Players To Watch
Lazio / Antonio Candreva
Udinese seem to have a real weakness down the left-hand side and many would argue Antonio is our only genuine attacking threat. Potential for a real mismatch.
Udinese / Antonio Di Natale
It was a toss up between the obvious candidate in Toto, and arguably the most boringly named Brazilian in world football, Allan (no offense to anyone of the same name, but his full name is Allan Marques Loureiro; he had options). Went for Di Natale as there is the possibility of fireworks when it is him versus our makeshift backline.
  Referee Statistics
Lazio vs Udinese
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