Match Preview: Catania vs. Fiorentina

Gabriele Maltinti

Fiorentina look to stay tight to the Champions League places, while on-loan striker Matri is expected to make his Viola debut in Sicily.

Where We Are

Despite a difficult 0-0 result in Torino last weekend, Fiorentina enter this game with moderate confidence about how they are placed, both mentally and in the table. The 5 point gap off of 3rd placed Napoli seems within reach, 5th place Inter remains 5 points behind despite the draw last weekend, and Vincenzo Montella hasn't seen his side lose since their trip to Rome at the beginning of December. Even more encouraging is the run of 5 consecutive clean sheet performances that Fiorentina take with them to Catania on Sunday. With potentially crucial on-loan target man Alessandro Matri signed on to lead the line, the side may have better balance and focus going forward as well, while we await the now-finally-really-soon return of star Mario Gomez.

Alongside Matri in attack, expect Juan Manuel Vargas to start, with his lovely crosses more likely to find someone in purple with the Italian big man in the center. Cuadrado remains untouchable on the right despite a couple below-par performances, while the midfield trio will likely be composed of Borja Valero, David Pizarro, and Matias Fernandez. Club captain Manuel Pasqual should be fit enough to reclaim his left fullback position, with the rest of the defense composed of the first choice group of Nenad Tomovic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, and Stefan Savic. A suddenly reasonably strong attacking bench comprised of Joaquin, Rebic, and Ilicic wait in the wings if Catania prove difficult to break down, but will otherwise potentially feature in the midweek Coppa Italia match.

Where They Are

Catania have been considered a shining example of a "well-run club" in Serie A for the past several seasons, entertaining and performing well despite a tiny budget and yearly player and coach turnover. But it appears that the magic has disappeared for them this season, suddenly boasting the worst attack in Serie A, and losing in embarrassing fashion at home this past week to Serie B side Siena in the Coppa Italia, 1-4. That result led to the ouster of head coach Luigi De Canio and the return of their coach from 3 months ago, Rolando Maran.

If that weren't enough, Catania will also have to do without the returned midfield amulet Francesco Lodi (suspended). Maran has also curiously elected to bench usual number 1 keeper Mariano Andujar in favor of Alberto Frison. On-loan Sporting midfielder Fabian Rinaudo is expected to take Lodi's place in the Catania engine room.

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The first meeting between these two clubs this season was at the Artemio Franchi, and Fiorentina earned all three points at home despite an inconsistent performance thanks to Giuseppe Rossi's first Serie A goal for la Viola and a David Pizarro *redemption-screamer* (TM).

Caution should be exercised, however, both for "too high of expectations for new signing" disease (re: Matri) and for "new coach gives immediate boost to hapless team" syndrome (re: Maran). Another intangible oddity is the poor track record Montella boasts against his former sides (he coached Catania, of course). And finally, remember last year's match in Catania, where we hit the crossbar twice and Aquilani got sent off absurdly? Three points in a tricky fixture would be huge to begin the return round of Serie A. FORZA VIOLA ALE!

Projected Lineups

Catania (4-3-3) Frison; Izco, Spolli, Bellusci, Biraghi; Castro Rinaudo, Plasil; Keko, Bergessio, Barrientos

FIORENTINA (4-3-3) Neto; Tomovic, G. Rodriguez, Savic, Pasqual; M. Fernandez, Pizarro, B. Valero; Cuadrado, Matri, Vargas

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