Fiorentina v. Everton: Preview

201233_hp.jpgIt seems like we’ve been talking about this one for a long time, but tomorrow in Florence Fiorentina will take on Everton in the first leg of their UEFA Cup final sixteen tie vs. English side Everton. As I detailed in yesterday’s post, both teams are coming off of great wins this weekend and find themselves in solid position to advance. Obviously getting the win at home will be critical for Fiorentina, but I have a feeling Everton will be up for it. Anyway, on to the preview.

As I said yesterday, I don’t know much about Everton, so I asked my good friend and Premiership fanatic Matty to give us a heads-up on what to look for with Everton. (Matt, incidentally, is a Newcastle United follower and probably should be blogging the Magpies for the Offside.com.) Anyway, here is what Matt said:

As for Everton, I can tell you the following: they are having an excellent year, and they deserve to get a Champions League spot (they got one after finishing 4th in 2005). They are one of the few teams to stick with a manager during some tough times because he had a plan, and it has worked out amazingly. David Moyes was even tipped to get the England job. They are led by their captain, Phil Neville. In goal, they have Tim Howard, who is having another strong season and is a good candidate for keeper of the year in the BPL. He’s had 12 clean sheets, and his G.A.A. is 0.81. Tim Lescott (Warf, the Klingon from Star Trek the Next Generation) had scored a pile of goals for a central defender (6 in the league and 2 in Europe), which has earned him an England call up, and is the only Toffee to play in every one of their games. Tim Cahill, the Australian, has come back from injury to have another usual stellar season, and usually plays behind a lone striker such as Ayegbani Yakubu or Andy Johnson. He is in the news for his goal celebration this past weekend when he crossed his wrists as if he had been handcuffed, which was dedicated to his brother Sean, who was jailed for six years in January for grievous bodily harm with intent. Johnson isn’t spectacular, but Yakubu is a solid striker who they pipped from Middlesboro this past summer, and leads the team with 12 goals (18 in all competitions). Cahill is second with 7 league goals (10 in all competitions). Their best scorer in Europe is Victor Anichebe, who has scored 4 times in Europe and only once in the league. Their best player and most underrated is Mikel Arteta. He is an excellent midfielder, who can’t get a game with Spain because of Fabregas and Xavi etc. There has been talk that he may play for England, which would be awesome. He also leads the BPL in being fouled the most with a total of 79 times. Just imagine if they still had a lad named Wayne Rooney. Apparently he is the White Pele. The match should be a phenomenal one. Two young teams that will be battling at the top of their respective divisions for the next few years.

As for Fiorentina, (I won’t break down the team like Matt just did with Everton, since presumably you know the team a little better if you are visiting this blog) the main question seems to be who will play. Star man Adrian Mutu is still out injured (and will be for both legs of the tie) but Coach Prandelli otherwise has a fairly large cast of characters to choose from. Fiorentina itself is coming off of a win vs. Rosenborg in the UEFA cup and two big wins in the league, including the 3-2 shocker on Sunday vs. Juventus. On Sunday virtually every player on the field played well (you have to to beat Juve at home) and so players who look in good form right now include Pazzini, Papa Waigo, Osvaldo (who did not look great but got the game-winner), Santana, Montolivo, Kuzmanovic, Gobbi, Donadel and Dainelli. It’s a nice problem to have: a lot of players look solid right now. I think youth will again triumph tomorrow, and we will see a lot of young faces on the field.

Recent Form (all competitions)

Fiorentina: L-W-L-W-W

Everton: W-W-W-W-W (yikes)

Probable Line-ups (AKA The Blind Guess Department)

Fiorentina: Frey; Ujfalusi, Dainelli, Kroldrup, Pasqual; Kuzmanovic, Donadel, Montolivo; Semioli, Pazzini, Jorgensen

Everton: Howard; P. Neville, Yobo, Lescott, Hibbert; Pienaar, Carsley, Osman, Jagielka, Cahill; Yakubu

Who’s NOT Playing?

Looks like Everton is perfectly healthy, somehow. Mutu is out for the Viola, and apparently Liverani and Sentana are questionable.

Analysis

Everton is a good, good team. So, however, is Fiorentina. They are young, aggressive, and relentlessly attacking. I suppose that Everton will try to come out very physically against this young squad, but the record also seems to indicate that Everton has a problem with skillful, attacking teams, as evidenced by their lack of any success at all vs. England’s big four. They may be able to out-muscle and out-class mid-table Prem teams, but it may be a different story at the Artemio Franchi.

Prediction

3-1 to Fiorentina. What else did you expect from me?

I will be back tomorrow or Friday morning with a “semi-recap” since I’ll be at work and won’t be able to catch the match, damn it.

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