Where We Are
A big result rolled into Florence this past weekend, ending a skid of 3 consecutive negative results and starting a 3 game home residency at the Artemio Franchi with a win. Now Fiorentina look to wipe away the 2-1 loss in Udine from last week and book their place in the Coppa Italia final in Rome. Judging from prematch interviews and commments, the team and coach are certainly galvanized, and understand what a potential trophy represents to both the fans and the club.
Vincenzo Montella has had a long list of injuries compromising his selections most of the season, but there is some good news from the infirmary ahead of this game. First and foremost, Mario Gomez makes the game-day roster, with the German center forward having apparently asked Montella to be included in the team despite having only a few practices (and no full-contact games) under his belt. He will not be starting, of course, so Alessandro Matri, Juan Cuadrado, and Joaquin are the anticipated attacking trident.
Fiorentina will have to do without their suspended todocampista Borja Valero, but do regain the services of Alberto Aquilani and Gonzalo Rodriguez, both returning from injury for the big game. Matias Fernandez will likely slot in for Borja, with David Pizarro anchoring the midfield. Modibo Diakite (after two consecutive good performances) will beat out Facundo Roncaglia for the right back position, while the defensive reliability of captain Manuel Pasqual may be favored over the powerful shot of Juan Manuel Vargas.
Where They Are
Udinese are (as always) finding their form in the second half of the season, winning 4 of their last 5 in all competitions, including an emphatic home win against Chievo Verona that ensured the Friulani would steer clear of the relegation battle, at least temporarily.
There is little doubt that Francesco Guidolin has his eyes on a Coppa Italia final and another chance in Europe, and will field the strongest side he can. Zeljko Brkic is still out with back problems, so 17 year old Simone Scuffet will retain his place in goal for Udinese, while Bruno Fernandes' fantastic performance as a substitute this past weekend has most likely earned him a starting spot in Florence.
The stakes are high, and my anxiety is even higher. An emphatic win at home could send Fiorentina to their first Coppa Italia final since beating Parma 2-1 on aggregate in 2001, with a chance to win their first major trophy of the Della Valle era. But a loss means the first failed campaign of the season, higher nerves and bigger doubts about the Europa League matches, and handing Udinese a road back into Europe (a disservice to all of Italy).
It will be very difficult without Borja Valero, and with a couple players struggling for fitness as well, but an early goal and the right attitude (NOT playing for the 1-0, for example) should still see Fiorentina's superior quality shine. The conditions in Florence should be fine tomorrow, the stadium should be packed, and the team has no reason to not be fired up. Forza viola ragazzi... It's a big one.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3) Neto; Diakite, Gonzalo, Savic, Pasqual; Aquilani, Pizarro, Matias Fernandez; Cuadrado, Matri, Joaquin
Udinese (3-5-1-1) Scuffet; Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Pinzi, Allan, Pereyra, Gabriel Silva; Bruno Fernandes; Di Natale