Udinese choose Julio Velazquez as their next head coach


Udinese have opted to move on from Igor Tudor, who had led the team in the final four games of the season, and have appointed Julio Velazquez, who has signed a three-year contract. The 37-year-old will be the first Serie A coach in history born after 1980 and is likely to be only foreign one next season.

Tudor had taken over after the bizarre tenure of Massimo Oddo, who had put together a lengthy winning streak in the Winter but then suffered 11 losses in a row, which prompted the inevitable firing. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Player of the Month in December


Some of the big guns sputtered in Decembers, others had to deal with injuries, and so the Serie A Fantasy Player of the Month award unusually goes to a defender, but, if you have been following the League, the team he comes from is not shocking at all, the red-hot Udinese: Silvan Widmer.

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Pescara out to earn ‘first’ Serie A win


“I try to get my players to play football,” Genoa President Enrico Preziosi snapped, “maybe [Pescara President Daniele] Sebastiani wants his to play volleyball.”

It’s fair to say it has been an eventful return to Serie A for Pescara. Their contest last weekend against Genoa was just the latest in a string of eye-catching matches and incidents involving the Delfini.

Ray Manaj’s late goal at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris earned Pescara a 1-1 draw. It came only after Francesco Zampano had cleared off the line with the use of his arm. It was not spotted by the officials. He avoided a red card and a penalty, although Genoa would later take the lead. By the time Pescara equalised, the home side had been reduced to nine men.

“How can you not see that handball on the line?” Preziosi raged afterwards. “If they want Pescara to stay in Serie A, just say so.”

Zampano, who supplied the cross for Manaj’s strike, was later banned on video evidence for two matches for unsporting behaviour. He maintains the handball was involuntary. Preziosi’s comments, meanwhile, earned the Grifoni a fine.

Days earlier, the Abruzzese club welcomed Torino to the Stadio Adriatico. That time it ended scoreless, but once again they ended the match playing against nine men, as Torino held on for a point.

In fact, Pescara are still seeking for their first win on the pitch this season. Their only triumph came thanks to League officials. Having lost to Sassuolo 2-1 in Round 2, it was discovered the Neroverdi fielded an ineligible player and so the result was reversed.

Yet aside from a 3-0 loss to Lazio the newly promoted club have been competitive. They took a two-goal lead against Napoli in the opening round and were largely the better side, before a second half Neapolitan recovery led to a 2-2 result. They also took the lead against Inter, only to fall to a last minute Mauro Icardi strike.

Massimo Oddo’s unfancied side have showed no fear upon moving up a division. His mantra is one of enterprising football. It’s a young squad, which aside from veterans Hugo Campagnaro, Alberto Aquilani and Simone Pepe, is lacking widespread top-flight experience. The latter duo was signed to add Serie A nous. But its real stars, the likes of Gianluca Caprari and Ledian Memushaj, were part of the squad which earned promotion.

Pescara host Chievo this weekend. On paper they will see it as a good opportunity to record that maiden on-field triumph, but they must be wary. The Veronese side are fourth after six matches and remain as stubborn as ever. It will be a good test for Oddo and his team, who will look to put recent events behind them.

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Have Pescara learned from previous Serie A shortcomings?


A season after being denied a return to Serie A by the narrowest of margins, Pescara made the promotion playoffs count in 2015-16. But as they prepare for the upcoming campaign, there’s a sense that the Delfini will be up against it to survive.

It was only over a week ago that Pescara boss Massimo Oddo admitted there’s still work to be done on the transfer front. “We are seeking players who can improve the squad and are functional to our project. This means we are looking for a defender, a midfielder and a striker.”

The latter is perhaps the most pressing, given the Abruzzese club will be without last term’s sharp-shooter Gianluca Lapadula. He struck 27 times in their successful campaign, but has since moved to Milan.

It’s an echo of the 2011-12 season, where the Serie B champions were led by the dynamic young trio of Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti. None would wear the Biancazzurro shirt in Serie A, the former duo returning to parent clubs and Verratti sold to Paris Saint-Germain. Coach Zdenek Zeman also departed for Roma. In place of the quartet came unsatisfactory replacements and Pescara finished bottom.

The Stadio Adriatico club has also lost another key player in the form of midfielder Rolando Mandragora, but have agreed a deal to keep Gianluca Caprari. An important figure in the promotion run, the striker bagged 13 goals last term and since signed for Inter, although will return to Pescara on loan. They will be relying on him and Lapadula’s replacement, Rey Manaj, also on loan from the Nerazzurri. Incoming Benfica midfielder Bryan Cristante could be an interesting midfield prospect.

This time they have managed to retain the boss. Former Lazio and Milan full-back Oddo was in charge of 2015’s playoff disappointment, but along with the team dusted himself off to gain promotion at the second attempt. He says he models his football on Sassuolo and Napoli, two sides who play enterprising styles and quickly get the ball to their dangerous attackers.  One of Serie B’s more entertaining sides, translating that to a successful approach in Serie A is a tougher ask. But Eusebio Di Francesco’s Sassuolo showed it can be done.

While the group four years on has not been ripped apart as severely as their last top flight adventure, there remains a question mark surrounding Pescara. How they replace the goals of Lapadula and adjusting to the rigours of Serie A will go a long way to determining whether Pescara makes another quick return to Serie B.