The first two weeks of the Serie A season have been exceptionally kind to Udinese and exceptionally hostile to AC Milan. While the Zebrette have six points on the back of two excellent performances, the Rossoneri have just one point after being outplayed in both of their first two matches. On Wednesday, the public could potentially learn exactly how good (or how bad) each of these teams are.
Though Udinese missed out on Champions League qualification by losing to Arsenal, they are, without a doubt, a Champions League quality side. Their style of play, depth of young players and extensive scouting allows them to easily replace departed superstars like Cristian Zapata, Gokhan Inler and Alexis Sanchez, but even Udinese needs a little bit of time to blend these players into the squad. Milan cannot take this team lightly at all; the Zebrette are as good as their current Serie A record.
Meanwhile, there's no way Milan are as bad as their current Serie A record, and it's unlikely that their players are individually as bad as they looked against Napoli. Antonio Nocerino and Clarence Seedorf, in particular, were very poor. They did very little to stop Napoli from counter-attacking at will when the ball was lost and didn't do much creating going forward either. The class of Andrea Pirlo, the grit of Genaro Gattuso and the athleticism of Kevin-Prince Boateng are all sorely missing at the moment.
It might sound a bit crazy on the surface to call Udinese favorites to get a win at the San Siro, but the only reason to believe otherwise has to do with history and tradition. If it weren't for the name 'Milan' and the images that their badge and their famous shirts conjure up in the heads of football fans, it might be widely accepted that Udinese are favorites to win this match.
Milan certainly didn't have success against Udinese last season. In this same fixture, the teams played to a thrilling 4-4 draw in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic had to score a stoppage time winner to rescue Milan. In the reverse fixture, at Fruili, the teams played to a 0-0 draw. Milan have not won any of their three competitive fixtures to start the season, while Udinese are 2-0-2, the two losses coming in well-played games against Arsenal. Udinese are healthy, while Milan have been ravaged by injuries. Systematically, Milan's narrow system with two strikers is a terrible matchup for Udinese's fluid 3-5-1-1. Everything hints at Udinese taking Milan to the woodshed.
That sounds wrong, doesn't it? "I'll believe it when I see it", says everyone.
Projected AC Milan lineup (4-4-2 Narrow Diamond): Abbiati; Antonini, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Abate; Van Bommel, Seedorf, Nocerino, Aquilani; Cassano, Pato
Projected Udinese lineup (3-5-1-1): Handanovic; Domizzi, Danilo, Benatia; Armero, Asamoah, Pinzi, Isla, Basta; Torje; Di Natale
Milan vs. Udinese kicks off at 8:45 pm local time, 7:45 pm BST and 2:45 pm ET. It can be seen on ESPN in the UK and Fox Soccer Channel in the USA. The game is also available on the internet on ESPN3 in the USA.