Lazio vs Udinese, preview: A tough opener at the Olimpico

Giuseppe Bellini

Lazio entertain Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening, with both sides already suffering early season setbacks.

In addition to being thrashed 4-0 by Juventus in the Super Cup last weekend, on Friday, Lazio lost their appeal to have the Curva Nord re-opened for the Serie A curtain raiser. The stand was ruled to be closed after fans were found guilty of directing alleged racist chants towards Juventus trio Angelo Ogbonna, Paul Pogba and Kwadwo Asamoah. The Biancocelesti players will display an anti-racism slogan on their shirts for Sunday's game.

Udinese come into this game just three days removed from a shock 3-1 Europa League reverse against Czech side FC Slovan Liberec. With a return leg due to be played away from home this Thursday, the Friulani are at risk of seeing their European adventure end rather abruptly. Lazio go straight into the Group Stages as a result of winning the Coppa Italia.

The Eagles have invested in South American talent and several youth players over the summer. Of the new arrivals, only Argentinean midfielder Lucas Biglia looks ready to make a first team appearance. Brazilian midfielder Felipe Anderson has been nursing an ankle injury for much of pre-season and is some way off competitive football. Stefano Mauri is currently benched for six months - pending an appeal, after the Lazio captain failed to report match fixing from 2011.

Udinese have kept hold of coach Francesco Guidolin and the evergreen Antonio Di Natale in a relatively quiet summer. The veteran striker will be looking to regain the Capocannoniere title this year, as it was arguably his 23 league goals which lifted the Zebrette to an impressive 5th place finish last season. In terms of movement, Almen Abdi and Joel Ekstrand have extended their adventures at feeder club Watford and have been joined at Vicarage Road by fringe striker Diego Fabbrini. Another promising talent, 21-year-old Czech Republic international Matej Vydra has swapped Watford for West Brom on a season-long loan deal.

Ivan Kelava will continue to deputise for the injured Zeljko Brkic in the Udinese goal. The first choice shot stopper isn't expected back until November, due to a muscle tear.

In recent years, this fixture has gone the way of the home team. Udinese last won here back in May 2009, with Lazio running out comfortable 3-0 winners in last season's corresponding fixture.

Lazio injuries and suspensions

Out: Abdoulay Konko, Felipe Anderson (injured) Stefano Mauri (suspended)

Udinese injuries and suspensions

Out: Zeljko Brkic (injured)

Projected lineups

Lazio: Marchetti, Cavanda, Biava, Cana, Radu, Candreva, Biglia, Ledesma, Hernanes, Lulic, Klose

Udinese: Kelava; Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Pereyra, Allan, Lazzari, Gabriel Silva; Muriel; Di Natale

Match date/time: Sunday 25th August 2013, 8:45p.m local, 2:45p.m ET

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome

TV: Sky Calcio 3, Premium Calcio 2 (Italy) BT Sport 1 (UK)

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