Where We Are
While a comfortable win in Esbjerg should give the team a boost, Fiorentina's recent Serie A form is beginning to be a bit of a concern, with only 2 wins in their last 6 in the league. With the second leg of the Europa League Round of 32 simplified by the positive away result, a strong team can be chosen without too much fear of overworking the same players.
A couple players return from injury as options for Vincenzo Montella, who is expected to use a 3-5-2 on Monday. Wingers Juan Cuadrado and Juan Manuel Vargas are fit enough to return to match day squad, although only Cuadrado is expected to start. Gonzalo Rodriguez returns from injury much faster than expected, but may not start, leaving Nenad Tomovic, Stefan Savic, and Marvin Compper to comprise the three man defense. Club captain Manuel Pasqual is expected to take his usual post on the left wing, with David Pizarro, Borja Valero, and one of Alberto Aquilani, Matias Fernandez, or Anderson starting in central midfield. A pairing of Alessandro Matri and Josip Ilicic is the anticipated starting duo in attack.
Where They Are
Parma have quietly become the team that many of us Serie A aficionados expected them to be at the beginning of the season, and their record in 2014 is a phenomenal 5-1-1, and are especially difficult to beat at home, having lost only twice at the Tardini all season (to Roma and Juventus). Roberto Donadoni has his team in 7th place, only 4 points behind Inter in the final Europa League position with a game in hand.
Donadoni has a couple minor absences in attack, but otherwise has a fully healthy starting eleven. Raffaelle Palladino is favored to start over ex-Viola Amauri in attack, while another "ex" Massimo Gobbi is unlikely to start, with Cristian Molinaro looking the more likely starter on the left wing. The dangerous players for Parma remain the same, with Antonio Cassano often providing a creative spark, Gabriel Paletta anchoring the defense, Jonathan Biabiany developing into a very complete right winger, and Marco Parolo disappointing my fantasy team ever since I traded for him.
We tifosi should expect this to be a much more difficult match than the one we weathered midweek in Denmark, with Parma in fine form, and Fiorentina bandaged, bruised, and returning from Europa League exertions. The team fitness - especially of players returning from injury - may very well be crucial, but let's still hope for a performance better than the one Fiorentina delivered at home in September, when a terrible first half performance (one that I think remains the worst of the season) was only barely recovered to be lost via a defensive meltdown in the dying seconds; the game ended a heartbreaking and depressing 2-2 draw. Hopefully whatever the result we will showcase a better performance this time around as we try to keep the pressure on Napoli and pull away from an Inter team that dropped points at home against Cagliari.
Parma (3-5-2) Mirante; Cassani, Paletta, Lucarelli; Biabiany, Gargano, Marchionni, Parolo, Molinaro; Cassano, Palladino
FIORENTINA (3-5-2) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic; Cuadrado, Aquilani, Pizarro, Borja Valero, Pasqual; Ilicic, Matri