Where We Are
FIORENTINA (2-0-0) 6 points
After a nervy win against Catania and a much more convincing (if wild) victory away at Genoa, Fiorentina have at least partially banished the demons that appeared at the end of preseason. Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi looked to be entering their best form, and both scored two in their last match before the international break. Now, after a week off for world cup qualifiers, things get interesting: 7 games in 22 days lie ahead for the boys in purple, including fixtures away to Inter, Dnipro, and Lazio. We will want to begin with three points in a home game against a defensively suspect Cagliari.
Vincenzo Montella has several selection decisions to make, and his choices will affect the flexible Fiorentina shape. After the successful sans-Cuadrado 4-3-1-2 against Genoa (with Borja Valero in the trequartista role behind Rossi and Gomez), there is talk of the formation returning against Cagliari, with Juan Cuadrado motoring forward from the right back position, although the 3-5-2 will remain on standby if Pizarro is fully fit. Captain Manuel Pasqual has returned from a long awaited and richly deserved Italy start with a nasty head wound requiring 50 stitches, but could still play on Sunday in a soft helmet. All the same, expect Marcos Alonso to make his debut Viola start at left back. Marvin Compper is also ready to start for the slightly knocked Stefan Savic. With the Europa League opener on Thursday, don't expect anyone that is less than 100% to be risked, but the Fiorentina lineup should be near full-strength all the same.
Where They Are
CAGLIARI (1-0-1) 3 points
Cagliari are a team with solid attacking talent and an often uncertain defense, but more uncertain than their defense has been the club structure around the team, from the coaching carousel to the lack of a home stadium for long stretches of last season. They have begun the season under former player and first-time coach Diego Lopez with more inspired attacking play, usually led by one of my favorite players, the exceptionally in-form striker Marco Sau. Cagliari lost against Milan at the San Siro in their last game week, but Sau popped up again with a phenomenal goal there too, so we will need Gonzalo Rodriguez to be vigilant in marking the developing Italian forward. In tactical terms, Diego Lopez has so far favored a 4-3-1-2 that favors solidity in midfield over the creative talents of Victor Ibarbo and Nene. Fiorentina summer transfer rumor regulars Radja Nainggolan and goalkeepr Michael Agazzi remain lynchpins for the Isolani.
This fixture at the Artemio Franchi last year ended as an emphatic victory for Fiorentina, but was more nervy than the 4-1 scoreline suggests, with Cagliari often finding space in the Viola box and the first half ending 1-1. Bomber Gonzalo and Cuadrado were both on the score sheet, with Vespa scoring his first for Fiorentina by lobbing Agazzi. If Fiorentina are disciplined enough to watch Sau and Pinilla, and don't provide the Sardinians with any backheeling-in-our-own-box assists, our quality (much of which well-rested from a week off) should carry us through. Let's hope we are pushing the Gomez button tomorrow! Forza Viola!
Fiorentina (4-3-1-2): Neto; Cuadrado, Gonzalo, Compper, Alonso; Aquilani, Pizarro, Ambrosini; Valero; Rossi, Gomez
Cagliari (4-3-1-2): Agazzi; Dessena, Rossettini, Astori, Murru; Ekdal, Conti, Nainggolan; Cossu; Pinilla, Sau. Coach: Diego Lopez
Kick-off at 6:30 a.m. EST, televised on beIN sport (delayed, at 10 a.m. EST). WARNING: beIN has a nasty habit of saying "CaGUE-LEE-AIR-EE" that hurts my ears/brain/soul.