Four months after the original fixture was postponed in chaotic circumstances, Udinese finally meet Serie A’s bottom side Salernitana on Wednesday.
Following three wins against teams below them in the table, the Friulani will play host to the southern strugglers seeking to inch closer to the top half, while the visitors posted just a fourth victory of the season last weekend.
In the final round of Serie A before the winter break, Udinese’s last match of 2021 was officially called off at the last minute, after their visitors were prevented from travelling.
Instructed by the local public health body not to fly to Udine following a positive COVID-19 test in their squad, Salernitana were unable to fulfil the fixture, but the game was not cancelled by the footballing authorities, as rules outlined that multiple cases were required for postponement.
Much controversy arose, and both sides were, in any case, afflicted by mass breakouts in their respective squads soon after. Despite claims Udinese should be awarded the three points, the match was finally pencilled in for this week and the two teams now finally meet.
The hosts will kick off amid their best form of the season, as a week after finding their sixth stoppage-time goal of the campaign to secure a victory at Venezia, a comprehensive 4-1 win over ailing Empoli last Saturday took Gabriele Cioffi’s men up to 12th place.
Initially appointed on caretaker terms at the end of last year, the former assistant to predecessor Luca Gotti has helped the Bianconeri avoid a relegation battle, which seemed certain to be their fate just a few months ago.
Now well clear of the drop zone with games still in hand, Udinese have taken 23 points from 15 Serie A matches under Cioffi’s management, and will be confident of capitalising on their soft recent schedule once again when they welcome the league’s last-placed side.
Salernitana coach Davide Nicola before the match on February 19, 2022© Reuters
With at least one game in hand on their relegation rivals – the first being played on Wednesday – Salernitana retain slim hope of a great escape following their crucial 2-1 win at Sampdoria last time out.
Serie A survival specialist Davide Nicola steered his side to victory at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, as the Granata scored two goals in the opening 10 minutes of a top-flight match for the first time since 1948.
Early strikes from Federico Fazio and much-admired midfielder Ederson were ultimately enough for the Campanian club to end their 11-match winless run and stay within nine points of safety, though much work remains if they are to defy the odds and avoid an immediate return to Serie B.
Ahead of their delayed trip north to Friuli, three of Salernitana’s four league wins this term have now come away from home, and with the pressure off – given realistically low expectations – they may well threaten their opponents’ growing unbeaten run.