Udinese are a historic club based in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the North East of Italy on the border with Austria and Slovenia. They share the same black and white colours as Juventus, a strip which has seen them nicknamed the Zebrette.
Founded in 1896 as part of the Udinese Society of Gymnastics and Fencing, Udinese is the second oldest club in Italy after Genoa, though the footballing division of the organisation wasn’t created until a group of gymnasts decided to start playing in 1911.
The Zebrette took part in their first FIGC-recognised tournament in 1912/13 when they battled it out with Petrarca and Padova in the Campionato Promozione, finishing second.
The 1920/21 campaign is now considered a landmark one seeing as it featured the debut of Gino Bellotto, whose record of 17 seasons with the club still stands today.
And the next year they came the closest they have ever come to a domestic cup victory, finishing as Coppa Italia runners up following a 1-0 defeat to Vado in the final.
The club spent the majority of the 1930s and 40s in Serie B, but they almost claimed the Serie A Scudetto title in 1954/55 when they were pipped at the last by Milan.
However, a subsequent decline saw them slip into Serie C in 1963/64, where they remained until they rejoined Serie B in 1978 and went back up to the top flight the following year.
In 1983, Udinese pulled off a monumental transfer coup when they managed to sign Brazilian Zico, considered perhaps the most skilful player in the world at the time.
But the legendary midfielder alone wasn’t enough to bring success, and the team proceeded to yo-yo between divisions until their 1995/96 promotion to Serie A, where they have been ever since.
That season they secured UEFA Cup qualification under Alberto Zaccheroni, and the following year they finished third behind second-placed Inter and title-winners Juventus, thanks mainly to the 27 goals of Oliver Bierhoff.
In 2000, Udinese pulled off their first major trophy win with victory in one of the Intertoto Cup finals. They qualified for the top European competition, the Champions League, for the first time in 2004/05, but they failed to make it into the knockout stage after being drawn in a tough group with Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos.
Though recent campaigns have been hampered by high-profile departures, one constant has been the goals of club hero Antonio Di Natale, who was Serie A’s back-to-back top-scorer in 2010 and 2011.
Udinese finished the 2012/13 season in fifth as Di Natale ended the campaign with more than 20 goals for the fourth consecutive year.
Udinese play their home games at the distinctive Stadio Friuli, the ground with the 7th highest capacity in Italy.
It can usually hold 41,652 spectators, but the number is currently reduced to 21,943 as major renovations continue. The updated stadium will be entirely under cover, while the historic curved arch over the central stand will be preserved in what will otherwise be a complete overhaul to a more modern aesthetic.
The Stadio Friuli was built to replace the club’s previous ground, the Stadio Moretti, at the wish of the mayor of Udine, Angelo Candolini, who wanted the city’s team to have a more modern home. Its inaugural game was on 26 September 1976 between Udinese and Seregno in Serie C.
In 1984, it became one of the first stadiums in Europe to have a giant TV screen, christened “The Cosmo”.
In March 1989, a testimonial game held for former Udinese player and Brazil legend Zico, who was retiring from international football, was played out between Brazil and a Rest of the World outfit at the Stadio Friuli.
Besides football, the stadium also hosts rugby games, concerts throughout the year and an annual meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Zebrette player who most strikes fear into the hearts of opposition is perhaps captain Antonio Di Natale, by now a talismanic figure after nearly a decade of service. Only Edison Cavani scored more Serie A goals last season, and he has found the net four times so far during the current campaign.
Another forward capable of terrorising defences is Luis Muriel, who proved himself a rising star last season. Ambidextrous and capable of fearsome speed, the Colombian has been tipped for greatness.
Roberto Pereyra is another player who continues to impress. An Argentine midfielder nicknamed El Tucumano, he featured for the national Under 20 team in the past, and has formed a strong central midfield partnership with Brazilian Allan.
Udinese have brought in two promising 19-year-olds from Roma: Nicolas Lopez and Valerio Verre (Uruguayan and Italian respectively), with the latter going out on loan to Palermo.
Right-back and Swiss Under 21 international Silvan Widmer arriving on loan from Granada is another youngster with a lot of potential, as is Brazilian Jadson.
Going the other way, Moroccan international Mehdi Benatia is now providing a strong physical presence in the Roma defence after a summer move to the capital.
Elsewhere, Matej Vydra’s impressive performances on loan in the English Championship with Watford have earned him the opportunity to line up for West Bromwich Albion in the top flight.
With 500 games under his belt in a managerial career that stretches back to 1986, Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin is one of the most respected managers around.
His debut coaching role was with the youth team of Giorgione, returning to the club where he began his playing career, and his first major success was taking Vicenza to Serie A in 1994/95 after a 16 year absence.
In 1996/97 he went on to guide them to Coppa Italia victory, and the next season he led them on a Cup Winners’ Cup adventure which eventually came to an end in the semi-final against Chelsea.
He first became manager of Udinese in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he began his current spell at the club.
Since then, the team have been continual overachievers under his stewardship, unable to compete financially with the more established teams but very much holding their own.
The Zebrette have secured European qualification in every season since Guidolin’s arrival in 2010, and having won the Serie A Manager of the Year award in 2011 for an excellent fourth-place league finish, he then bettered it the following year as the side secured third position.
Also a cycling aficionado, he has turned his hand to acting as a commentator of television coverage of the Giro D’Italia on occasion.