WHERE WE ARE
Fiorentina are once again feeling good after the draw at home to Cagliari with two efficient shut out victories in a week. They will be hoping that the clinical form of Giuseppe Rossi and more key role player contributions can once again prove the difference on Thursday at the San Siro. La Viola will still be missing David Pizarro in midfield, and Juan Cuadrado and Mario Gomez remain injured, although it is said that Vespa may return slightly sooner than expected. Those absences may weigh more heavily in Milan than they did in Bergamo.
At Atalanta on Sunday, Vincenzo Montella tinkered successfully with the Fiorentina lineup, selecting young talent Rafal Wolski to pair Pepito in attack, and his team sealed a two goal advantage early enough into the second half to give a bit of extra rest to goal-scorers Rossi and Matias Fernandez. Both players will be starters on Thursday, as Montella will likely select a nearly unchanged lineup to face Walter Mazzarri’s team. Key players’ fatigue levels will have to be evaluated, notably Massimo Ambrosini, Alberto Aquilani, and Nedad Tomovic, but the only true question mark will be who will pair Rossi up front in Montella’s relatively new 4-3-1-2. Joaquin’s experience will probably be favored by the mister in the hostile away environment, although Josep Ilicic's return to full fitness adds an interesting wrinkle into Montella's options going forward. The "insostituibile" ("irreplaceable") Borja Valero will look to reprise his role behind the strikers, linking up with Rossi, the man who has already been given the mantle of Mutu’s monicker - "il fenomeno" - by he Florentine faithful.
Fiorentina Roster: Alonso, Ambrosini, Aquilani, Borja Valero, Bakić, Compper, Fernandez, Iličić, Joaquín, Lupatelli, Munua, Neto, Pasqual, Rebić, Rodriguez, Roncaglia, Rossi, Ryder, Savić, Tomović, Vargas, Vecino, Wolski
WHERE THEY ARE
Walter Mazzarri’s Inter has surprised some (myself included) with a strong start to the season despite lingering long-term injuries, and enters a second big home match in two weeks after having absolutely demolished Sassuolo at the weekend 0-7. Diego Milito’s triumphant two-goal return stole headlines in their rout, but perhaps the story of the nerazzurri season so far has been the sterling form of Saphir Taider. The young Algerian defensive midfielder has been a revelation, introducing solidity to the midfield that Fiorentina waltzed through so easily last spring. Mazzarri's impact has been significant as well, having introduced his usual 3 central defender scheme at Inter; the team has also clearly grown without the continual tactical rearranging that plagued them under Stramaccioni.
At the same time, this Inter is hardly the indomitable opponent it was under Mancini or Mourinho, with an aging core of bandiere supported by only somewhat maturing talent. Add in President Moratti confirming the sale of a majority share to Indonesian moneybag Erick Thohir, and the present of Inter remains as uncertain as its future, and Fiorentina will be hoping to take advantage of any uncertainties with a big away performance early in the season.
History is heavily against Fiorentina in this match; thankfully for them history won't be playing. This fixture was one of the more disappointing performances of the first half of last season for La Viola, a 2-1 loss that saw Fiorentina dominant in the midfield but toothless in the final third (we perhaps thought ourselves lucky that Milito didn't convert more of his golden opportunities). But even beyond last year, the result of Inter vs. Fiorentina hasn't resulted in 3 points for the Tuscan club since May 7th of 2000, when Fiorentina beat Lippi's Inter 0-4, with Enrico Chiesa and Gabriel Batistuta scorers, Francesco Toldo in the Viola goal, and Giovanni Trappattoni nearing the end of his tenure. With several direct competitors for European places dropping points this week, Fiorentina will be even more eager to end their taboo and move up the table... And who knows, maybe the 13th try will be the charm. Forza viola!
Inter (3-5-1-1) Handanovic; Campagnaro, Rannochia, Juan Jesus; Jonathan, Cambiasso (Kuzmanovic?), Guarin, Taider, Nagatomo; Alvarez; Palacio (Milito?)
FIORENTINA (4-3-1-2) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Savic, Pasqual; Aquilani, Ambrosini, Fernandez; Borja Valero; Joaquín (Iličić), Rossi