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Serie A Week 34 - 20/4/08 (14.00 UK)

Sampdoria - Udinese
Stadio Ferraris

The two surprise contenders for a Champions League spot go head to head in what will effectively end the hopes of one – or possibly both.

These sides have amazed everyone with their performance this season and are practically on level terms with reigning European and World Club champions Milan with just five rounds to go. Last week all the contenders for continental spots suffered a defeat and only one point separates Samp and Udinese, so everyone will be eager to get back on track and take advantage of this showdown.

Sampdoria fell to a shock defeat away to relegation strugglers Reggina and infuriated their Coach in the process. “We made mistakes that really weren’t like us,” said Walter Mazzarri. “We seemed apathetic. I hope we can use this as a wake-up call so that it never happens again.”

He has to make changes as Daniele Gastaldello and Paolo Sammarco sit out bans, while Hugo Campagnaro and goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi are injured. The shot-stopper damaged his shoulder at the Granillo and requires surgery keeping him out for the season, so former Siena No 1 Antonio Mirante takes over the gloves. Antonio Cassano has been lacking in match fitness since returning from his five-match ban and will again partner Claudio Bellucci, while Pietro Accardi returns from suspension to bolster the defence.

The loss in Calabria ended their seven-match unbeaten run, but the Blucerchiati hope to maintain their excellent home record, where they have lost just once this season in a 5-0 to Milan back on Halloween. It was also the first time they have failed to score since the halfway point in this campaign.

Udinese’s defeat to Roma was “a missed opportunity” according to Coach Pasquale Marino, as they had been leading through Antonio Di Natale’s 16th goal of the season. Samir Handanovic did his best to keep the Giallorossi out, but was eventually beaten three times. Dias Felipe, Gyan Asamoah and Christian Obodo remain sidelined and there should be very few changes to that line-up with Simone Pepe supporting Italian internationals Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella. Giandomenico Mesto returns from a ban to take the left flank, while Andrea Coda may go on to the bench.

Last season this fixture ended in a spectacular 3-3 draw as Sampdoria fought back from 3-0 down to earn a point. Neutrals will be hoping for a similarly entertaining clash at Marassi, especially as back in Week 15 it was a similarly blistering 3-2 victory for the Friulani sealed by a last-gasp Quagliarella strike.

Keep an eye on: Antonio Di Natale (Udinese) – If there are calls for Antonio Cassano to enter the Euro 2008 squad, then there can be no doubts over Di Natale’s credentials. His 16 goals and series of assists make him the go-to guy for Udinese.

Last season: Sampdoria 3-3 Udinese

Form guide: Sampdoria (W D W W L) Udinese (W W W D L)

Sampdoria (probable): Mirante; Lucchini, Sala, Accardi, Maggio, Palombo, Volpi, Franceschini, Pieri; Cassano, Bellucci

Udinese (probable): Handanovic; Zapata, Zapotocny, Lukovic; Mesto, D’Agostino, Inler, Dossena; Pepe, Quagliarella, Di Natale

Ref: To follow...

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we have had some pretty important matches this season. we have had some amazing performances ( beating juve, beating fiorentina twice, stopping inter twice) however we have also had some very disappointing ones. sunday will prove to be the most important game all season against a sampdoria team that over the past 3 or so years, have been our direct competetors in serie a. we always seem to fight with them for the same spot in the table. If there would be any time to perform greatness, it would be sunday. zapata is back and fully fit as well as mesto. samp are without castelazzi and sammarco, other than that they are at full strength. THERE WILL BE NO EXCUSES FOR EITHER TEAM. we must not allow cassano to play like he did the first leg. zapata has to be all over him and cannot allow any space on that flank as well as inside the penalty area. sampdoria has played brilliantly at home this season. I think they have beaten teams 3-0 like 4 times this season. In conclusion, this game will be very physical and WHOEVER SCORES THE FIRST GOAL I BELIEVE WILL WIN. UDINESEEEEEEE ALLEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:stress::fero:
 
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