MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) European NAP heads to Serie A on Sunday.
Udinese v Spal | Sunday 21st January 2018, 14:00
Udinese axed veteran head coach Gigi Delneri after picking up only four wins from their opening 12 Serie A matches this season. The club was stale, going nowhere fast and desperately required someone new, young and with fresh ideas to help them out of their concerning malaise.
Former full-back Massimo Oddo was given the gig at the Stadio Friuli. He’d enjoyed great success with Pescara and arrived in buoyant mood, eager to make a difference with the Zebrette.
First up was an expected 1-0 loss to Napoli but his positive outlook has made a significant difference with Udinese’s following six fixtures returning 16 points. The 41 year-old guided the group to five successive victories, including a stunning 3-1 success at previously unbeaten Inter Milan.
Following a stream of excuses after negative and abject displays under Delneri, Udinese have found their range, their confidence and their poise. So when the Zebrette were held to a 1-1 draw at Chievo in their last outing before the brief winter break, the team were disappointed they’d failed to perform.
Oddo admitted it was Udinese’s “worst performance since I’ve been at the club” and was grateful for the point, picked up thanks to Nenad Tomovic’s own goal. The new boss took the blame for a passive first-half display but confirmed his young squad would learn from their ways and be ready for their next match.
That young squad is also in-demand. A string of excellent performances have attracted many clubs to the likes of Jakub Jankto and Antonin Barak and Oddo has expressed his desire to keep both at the Friuli until at least the end of the season.
The betting angle
Both starlets are expected to start in Sunday’s contest with struggling Spal and Udinese look fantastic value to win (4/5 Betway). However, we can get a meatier 9/10 (BetStars) on the hosts scoring Over 1.5 Goals, which is my preferred play here.
Udinese have scored 15 goals in six outings since that Napoli encounter and have covered the line in six of their 10 Stadio Friuli contests this term, including when welcome Juventus. In fact, the Zebtette have scored at least twice in eight of their last 14 when hosting bottom-half Serie A sides.
The hosts have also beaten each of their past eight opponents from the bottom-six here and looking at their record against bottom-four visitors, Udinese have won all six such showdowns since the start of last season, covering the -1 handicap on each occasion.
Considering Spal have managed a sole success in nine – at rock-bottom Benevento – as well as that being their only victory on their travels, it’s hard to see the newly-promoted club causing Udinese too many problems. The guests have lost seven of their nine away days, five of which were by a two-goal margin.
The visitors have shipped at least two goals in six of their previous seven games, as well as six of their last seven away days and head coach Leonardo Semplici has continuously bemoaned his porous defence post-match in recent weeks.
Semplici’s been busy in the transfer window, adding Poland defender Thiago Cionek, left-back Boukary Drame and midfielder Jasmin Kurtic but even so, Udinese should be capable of clinching maximum points here against a Spal side that’s shipping an average of 1.90 goals per-game, facing over 18 shots per-game on their travels and allowing almost seven on-target efforts on their travels.
This selection could be enhanced to odds-against quotes of 23/20 (BetStars) should readers wish to combine the home win and Over 1.5 Goals in the game.
Udinese v Spal – Udinese to score Over 1.5 Goals (9/10 BetStars)