Two sides scrapping for Serie A survival meet at the Dacia Arena on Saturday, as Udinese host Sampdoria, who sit just below them in the standings.
Separated only by goal difference – though the Bianconeri have played two fewer games – the teams shared six goals in October’s reverse fixture, but both will be in pursuit of maximum points this time, against a relegation rival.
Having had a hand in the leadership of Serie A last time out, when holding Milan to a 1-1 draw at San Siro, Udinese will hope to build some momentum on the back of consecutive draws against top-seven sides.
Second-half substitute Destiny Udogie made an impact shortly after coming off the bench, as he bundled home an equaliser which ultimately secured a point for the Bianconeri – just days after sharing the spoils with Lazio back in Udine.
However, Udinese have now won only one of their last seven Serie A games – a 2-0 victory versus Torino last month – and are mired in trouble at the wrong end of the table with games running out to reverse their decline.
Sitting 14th heading into the weekend, the Friulani are just four points clear of the bottom three, but do still retain at least one game in hand on their bottom-half counterparts, following a spate of COVID-19 cancellations around the turn of the year.
Gabriele Cioffi’s side may have enough nous and know-how to avoid slipping into the second tier, but after hosting Sampdoria this week, they will face Roma and Napoli within the next fortnight – so their struggles could be set to continue for a while yet.
Furthermore, they have lost their last two Serie A home games against their next opponents, but Samp have been a shadow of their former selves this term and could be there for the taking.
Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo reacts on February 13, 2022© Reuters
The largely positive trend that started since Marco Giampaolo returned to the Sampdoria hotseat was brutally ended by a 4-0 reverse to Atalanta on Monday night, when they found themselves two goals down before the half-hour mark and were never able to recover.
As a result, the Blucerchiati have lost four successive Serie A away matches without scoring a single goal for the first time since 2011 and will travel to Udine in dire need of putting a stop to that streak.
The only side yet to draw a single top-flight game since the turn of the year – losing six times in the process – Samp occupy 15th spot in the table but remain uncomfortably close to the dotted line.
Positive results against Sassuolo and Empoli shortly after Giampaolo’s reappointment have proved that they can at least prevail over sides just above them in the table, while defeats to Atalanta and Milan were perhaps to be expected – so taking on Udinese will be seen as an opportunity to improve their modest away record.
Prior to an entertaining 3-3 draw in the reverse fixture, Sampdoria had won each of their previous five Serie A meetings with the Bianconeri by an aggregate scoreline of 12-3, so recent precedent is also on their side.