Udinese bid to take another big step toward a first major title when they visits Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup quarter-final today as Italian soccer’s lone survivor in this season’s European competitions.
Despite knocking out defending champion Zenit St Petersburg in the previous round, Udinese are only 14th in the 20-club Italian standings.
But their appearance in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals has eclipsed Serie A clubs who have traditionally done well in Europe and Inter, Juventus, AS Roma and AC Milan have only the domestic competitions to concentrate on.
“This game is very important for us,” midfielder Gaetano D’Agostino said. “We are in high spirits and very motivated. We are aware we have the chance to write an important page in the Bianconeri history as we are playing in our first major European quarterfinal.”
Werder Bremen, whose only major European success was the 1992 Cup Winners Cup, are also below halfway in the Bundesliga.
“Udinese are certainly a different caliber of team,” said Bremen managing director and former German international Klaus Allofs. “They are very well organized, tactically disciplined and have a very dangerous counterattacking game.”
Bremen captain Torsten Frings says his team must try to avoid conceding a goal at home.
“Sure we can beat them, it’s a not a super team, but conceding a goal could be deadly,” the midfielder said.
The last eight round could set up an all French semi-final or a matchup of two teams from Ukraine.
Marseille go to Shakhtar Donetsk today while Paris Saint-Germain take on Dynamo Kiev, and the winners after next week’s return legs will face each other.
The other German survivor are Hamburg who host Manchester City, chasing their first major title since the 1976 League Cup.
City midfielder Stephen Ireland, who has been one of the team’s most eyecatching players this season, is doubtful because of an ankle injury. But Bulgarian left winger Martin Petrov, who has been out of action since August with a serious knee injury, could return after playing half of a reserve game against Newcastle.