Before we get to the big game, Fiorentina closed the transfer window by selling Michele Pazienza to
Palermo Napoli for 4.5 million euros. All things considered, he was pretty far down the pecking order in the midfield and I'm not sure that he fit into the "Viola Project". That's a pretty substantial fee for a substitute player. Hopefully he can get some more games in Naples. Good luck to Michele.
Fiorentina have won 4 straight Serie A matches, while Milan have won 3 of their last 4. The previous meeting this year finished in a 1-1 tie at the San Siro in Milan.
Obviously, the reason this game is so important is that both teams count Champions League qualification as a top priority for the remainder of this season. In recent weeks, Fiorentina have climbed into the 4th and final CL spot, and sit there with a reasonably comfortable 4 point lead over Udinese.
Milan sit in 6th place, 7 points behind Fiorentina with one game in hand. A win here would pull them to within 4 points, and assuming they win the game in hand (its against Livorno), then they would be only one point back of Fiorentina.
Fiorentina simply cannot afford to lose this game. A draw suits our purposes fine, but a win would do a lot to boost the confidence in the squad and the CL spot would be well within reach.
Last time, Milan sent Gattuso out with the orders to foul Mutu early and often (maybe he didn't need the orders and simply enjoys kicking Romanians - either way, he must have fouled Mutu 10 times in the game minimum). I look for more of the same from Milan this time around - they will look to prevent Mutu from having the time to turn and run at defenders in space. A first half yellow on Gattuso would be sweet.
Fiorentina will need to be tight at the back and will need the usual big game from Frey between the pipes. If you'd like to rage, read the part of the C4 preview where they allude to Milan's pursuit of the French goalkeeper. Fortunately the window is now closed so the rumors should subside for a little while. At any rate, if the Viola win this game then a big step towards keeping the likes of Frey will have been taken.
What Scares Me
Obviously, the lack of consistent production from the center forward has been worrying me. Whether Prandelli gives the nod to Pazzini or Vieri, a goal needs to be scored. My guess is that he'll go with Pazzini based on the fact that Vieri started the Coppa loss to Lazio.
In addition, Milan are dangerous. Pato has lived up to the hype so far, which is incredible considering how ludicrous the hype was. Plus, they have the reigning world player of the year in Kaka, who is always capable of turning the game in a moment.
Another worrying problem for Fiorentina is that the only truly defensive midfielder in the team, Donadel, missed through a card suspension. He would have been helpful in closing down Seedorf and Kaka, and considering that Ujfalusi may be less than 100% after the minor knock in the Lazio game, the fact that Fiorentina may be slightly weakened at the back is a concern.
And I cannot let this preview go by without mentioning that Fiorentina have exactly 0 wins this year against the Italian "big 4" (Milan, Inter, Bianconeri bastards and Roma). This would be quite a time to reverse that trend.
This game will be aired live on Fox Soccer Channel in the USA at 2:30 EST on Sunday (no conflict with that other Football game).
I believe the Viola will get a result on Sunday. I think it is likely to be a draw, but I really hope the boys don't come out and play for a draw because that would be a serious mistake. They need to press forward and try to get on the board, because Milan have the ability to threaten the Viola defense. I think that Mutu and Santana have the ability to take advantage of a geriatric Milan defense with their quick moves and incisive passing, and either Bobo or Pazzini will have to take advantage of the chances that fall their way. The crowd will be tremendous and in full voice behind the boys. Now is the time to show that they are truly worthy of the CL spot. I think they will. Forza Viola!