Meeting in a league fixture for the first time in 33 years, Serie A new boys Monza host top-flight regulars Udinese at Stadio Brianteo on Friday.
Having picked up just one point between them in the opening two rounds, both sides will be intent on claiming a much-needed win.
As a promoted club who were ambitious in the transfer market this summer, expectations have been raised for Monza’s debut campaign in Serie A, but the harsh realities of life in the Italian elite have already begun to bite.
Beaten 2-1 at home by Torino on the opening day, the Serie B playoff winners travelled to Campania last weekend, to meet likely top-four contenders Napoli at Stadio Maradona.
Despite holding out for the first half-hour, Monza found themselves on the end of a 4-0 thumping from the new-look Neapolitans, and are still searching for their first point in the top flight.
An all-too-familiar sinking feeling will already be bothering coach Giovanni Stroppa, who has now lost each of his last eight Serie A games – including six with relegated Crotone in the 2020-21 campaign.
The Biancorossi, who meet Udinese again in the Coppa Italia second round in October, must tackle both Roma and Juventus by the middle of next month, so they will be keen to capitalise on home advantage against more modest opposition.
Like Monza, Udinese’s only success so far has been in the cup, where they saw off FeralpiSalo at the start of August, and one point from two matches has not been an ideal start for new coach Andrea Sottil.
With Destiny Udogie back in the squad, following the completion of his move to Tottenham and subsequent loan back to the Bianconeri, Sotill’s side found themselves down to 10 men before the break last Saturday, as they hosted Salernitana.
Partly as a result of Nehuen Perez’s dismissal, Udinese failed to score in Serie A for just the second time in 17 games – incidentally both occurred against the side from Salerno – and had to settle for a single point from a frustrating goalless draw.
Having previously taken the lead against Milan on the opening day, the Friulani were ultimately beaten 4-2 by the champions at San Siro, so will now aim to seize a first league win from their latest trip to Lombardy.
Goalkeeper Marco Silvestri played an integral role in preserving their point last week, but with Monza still adapting to the top flight, a front line featuring Isaac Success, Gerard Deulofeu and last term’s breakthrough star Beto must come to the fore on Friday night.
Due to the events of the past week, Udinese coach Andrea Sottil will be forced into a change on the right flank, as Nehuen Perez serves a suspension following his sending-off against Salernitana and Brandon Soppy has left for Atalanta.
Irish wing-back Festy Ebosele is therefore likely to come into the starting XI, while Bram Nuytinck could replace Jaka Bijol in perhaps the only changes to a settled side.
Since March, Gerard Deulofeu – who starts up front for the visitors – has been involved in the joint-most away goals in Serie A: six altogether (four goals and two assists), alongside Inter’s Lautaro Martinez.
Meanwhile, Monza will be without veteran defender Andrea Ranocchia for Friday’s game and the foreseeable future, as the former Italy international suffered a compound fracture of the fibula in last week’s defeat and is set to be sidelined until 2023.
After appearing as a substitute in Naples, Valentin Antov is the man most likely to step in to Giovanni Stroppa’s back three, but the hosts may not otherwise make many changes, with Alessio Cragno being forced to wait for his debut in goal.
Three of Stefano Sensi’s nine goals in Serie A have been scored against Udinese, and the on-loan midfielder should feature in the centre of a 3-5-2 formation.
Monza possible starting lineup:
Di Gregorio; Marlon, Antov, Carboni; Birindelli, F. Rannocchia, Barberis, Sensi, Molina; Caprari, Petagna
Udinese possible starting lineup:
Silvestri; Becao, Nuytinck, Masina; Ebosele, Pereyra, Walace, Makengo, Udogie; Deulofeu, Success