Where We Are
One could say that Fiorentina are limping into Ukraine, both physically - with an almost incredible injury list - and mentally, after wounding last minute collapses in our previous two matches. Vincenzo Montella spent much of his press conferences leading up to this showdown in Dnipropetrovsk emphasizing the need to not only be more savvy in the closing stages of matches, but asking to see more often the "furor of character" exhibited in most of the second half against Parma.
With the absences we carry into Ukraine, we will need all the character we can muster. With regards to selection, Montella is said to be favoring a 4-3-2-1, with Joaquin and Cuadrado behind the only fit Fiorentina player that somewhat resembles a striker: Ryder Matos. I say "resembles" not as a slight to Matos, but to emphasize that Matos isn't really a first or second striker, but a kind of variation on a number 10 and a winger, similar to Ljajic. Ilicic was expected to be paired with Joaquin in attack after Monday's game, but he too is having injury problems (again), so Matos will be asked to lead the line in a "false 9" fashion, and we all hope he still has a nose for the goal after the game against Pacos.
In other selection news, there are rumors that the experience of Marvin Compper may be preferred at left back to Marcos Alonso, and Massimo Ambrosini will slot into the midfield trio in the place of a tired Alberto Aquilani. Borja Valero is also expected to start despite his long run of matches without a rest, perhaps solely for his set piece delivery. Neto is forecasted to retain his place in goal despite poor outings against Inter and Parma (and much of the Viola community baying for his blood like wolves).
Where They Are
The biggest Fiorentina fan in Scotland Giancarlo Rinaldi was kind enough to link us to this lovley (and short) preview on the match from a Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk perspective, so my analysis might feel a little redundant. One of the things that I can contribute, however, is a little more on Dnipro's recent form. The Ukrainian side hasn't lost a match in any competition since July 27th, with their record since being 10-2-0. They are coached by journeyman coach Juande Ramos, who has European experience in multiple nations, and have a solid core of veteran international players.
While Dnipro are near full-strength in a fitness sense, Ramos may elect to shift some things around in light of their looming showdown this weekend against division-leading (and traditional rival) Metalist Kharkiv. But all the same Fiorentina have many reasons to be fearful of an aggressive and hard-working team that beat Napoli emphatically at Dnipropetrovsk last year.
Fiorentina and Dnipro have faced each other once before, in the UEFA Cup of 2000-2001 when la Viola were under the management of Roberto Mancini. Fiorentina drew away 0-0 and then won at home 2-1 with goals by Adani and Chiesa. History aside however, this Dnipro away match was always going to be the most difficult fixture for Fiorentina in Group E, and has only been compounded by the likely cold and possibly snowy conditions and the important Viola injuries.
I expect perhaps the most conservative side that we have seen under Montella to date, with the rumored 4-3-2-1 easily becoming a 4-5-1 with Cuadrado and Joaquin dropping into midfield. Given the key attacking absences, we should hope that Ambrosini, Gonzalo Rodriguez, and Nedad Tomovic bring the kind of "furor" that the coach was talking about, along with defensive solidity. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how Dnipro approaches this game. A draw would be a very good result for Fiorentina, and Dnipro could also see it the same way, since these two teams are clear favorites to advance from the group. Will Dnipro attack an opponent that normally wants to control the game, but will now be a little more conservative?
With the question marks swirling, this promises to be an interesting and important match in the Fiorentina season. After what's happened the last two matches, we want reasons to be proud! Forza viola!
Dnipro (4-3-1-2) Lastuyka; Mandzyuk, Mazuch, Douglas, Vlad; Rotan, Kankava, Konoplyank; Giuliano; Seieznyov, Kalinic
FIORENTINA (4-3-2-1): Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic, Alonso; Ambrosini, Pizarro, Borja Valero; Cuadrado, Joaquin; Matos