On Sunday in Siena Fiorentina will take on their nearby rivals in a derby match with important implications for Series A. The Viola, as we all probably know, are fighting hard to stay 4th in the league and thus secure a Champions League spot, a task made all the more difficult by Milan’s exit from the CL and their presumably laser-like focus on getting results in Series A. Siena, meanwhile, continues to fight in gritty fashion to spend another year in the top flight, as they remain (as they always are) dangerously close to the relegation line.
I have a confession to make before I go any further with this: I really like Siena. One of the great days of my life was spent lounging in a café with my wife in the shadows of the city’s majestic and enigmatic black-and-white striped cathedral. In the evening, as we wandered the city streets, we both agreed it would be a fine place to live. Later that week, back in Florence, I even bought a Siena goalkeepers shirt, just so I would remember the day I had.
So, I guess Siena is part of a three-way tie for my second favorite team in Italy (along with Pisa and Roma, anecdotes that I can probably save for another day). This doesn’t mean, however, that I will be rooting for Siena in any way: I want Fiorentina (indisputably my favorite team) to go down there, get their three points, and get out. That being said, I would also like it if Siena managed to stay up again. Life is more fun when this feisty club is in the top flight. (And fellas, if you could stay up by taking some points off of Juve and Milan, I would doubly appreciate it.)
Anyway, on to the preview. As I said, Siena is a good club with an attacking mentality, and they play pretty well at home. We all remember the shellacking they gave Roma a few weeks ago. Massimo Maccarone can create real danger when he’s on, and Mario Frick is one of my favorite players at the club. (And also my favorite Liechtenstein player of all-time.) Tomas Locatelli is another dangerman for Siena, but apparently his status is up in the air for this week as he’s been hurt off-and-on for a while now.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, is coming off three wins in a row and two very emotional ones, including a win at Juve and a defeat of Everton in the first leg of their UEFA Cup tie. A win here would guarantee that they stay four points up on Milan. They have the talent, the will, the coaching, and the momentum. I assume they will start with Pazzini at center-forward and combine him with some combination of Santana, Jorgenson, Kuzmanovic, or Papa Waigo. If Siena plays as they usually do we should have a wide-open, attacking, fun game, as most Fiorentina matches usually are.
Recent Results (All Competitions)
Starting Line-Ups (AKA The Blind Guess Department)
Siena: Manninger; Rossettini, Portanova, Loria, De Ceglie; Coppola, Codrea, Kharja; Forestieri; Frick, Maccarone
Fiorentina: Frey; Dainelli, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Pasqual; Kuzmanovic, Donadel, Montolivo; Santana, Pazzini, Jorgensen
Who’s NOT Playing
Mutu continues to be out for the Viola. Osvaldo is suspended because of the red card at Juve. Semioli and Liverani are both questionable. Locatelli, Daniele Galloppa, Simone Vergassola and Lucas Jarolim are all questionable for Siena.
At this point in the season, the math gets devastatingly simple for teams. Fiorentina want to finish 4th (or higher). They have a four-point cushion. If they win all of their remaining twelve games, they are safe. Of course they will not win all twelve, but they have to win as many as possible to keep the space between them and Milan; I have a feeling Milan will certainly win their fair share going in. That means Fiorentina must win its winnable games, and this is a winnable game. Yes, I like Siena, yes they are plucky, I like their style and hope they stay up. But Fiorentina is a better team with a lot of skill and a lot of heart and young guys who have something to prove. With all the momentum they have right now, it would be a shame not to take three points from their Tuscan neighbors.
2-1 Fiorentina. Then Siena wins their next three.
The TV situation here in the states is still a little iffy, so I will be back Sunday night with either a semi- or full recap depending on whether I can catch the game.