Some matches are so big for the team’s supporters, and so much potential fun, that it is impossible to preview them, for the written word simply cannot match the emotions the fans feel. This match is shaping up that way for me; I feel like I’ve been looking forward to it for months, even though it has only been scheduled for weeks, and I am nearly giddy with anticipation at the thought of going through to the final. Let me put it this way: even though I’ve had a busy, stressful week at work and my wife and I are expecting our first child in about a month, my biggest concern this week has been whether I should wear my lucky Batistuta shirt or my lucky Toni shirt on Thursday. In other words, I’m ready for the game.
Regardless, onto the formalities. On Thursday the Viola will play the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final vs. Rangers at Ibrox. The return leg is a week later in beautiful Florence. Fiorentina will have nearly a full-strength squad, with the glaring omission of Ujfalusi (something that worries me greatly) while Rangers are a touch more beat-up. Rangers, of course, are having a very fine season. They are still on track for a historic quadruple, and are in the driver’s seat in the SPL even while in second place because they have games in hand. The UEFA Cup, however, would be their most prestigious trophy, so they will certainly be firing on all cylinders tomorrow afternoon.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, has had a fine few weeks. They spanked PSV on the road in their last UEFA Cup match to advance to this round before losing, exhausted, to a surging Inter squad. Last Sunday that efficiently beat Palermo, winning 1-0 while playing fine defense and not exhausting themselves. They look in fine shape to play tomorrow. It will simply come down to who is the better team.
Rangers are obviously a very strong team having an excellent season. Carlos Cuellar has been the man and will presumably be key in this game. However, I see Fiorentina as the stronger club overall, as well as the team with the best outfield player (Mutu) and the best keeper in Bassy Frey. I hope the team comes out to play with the typical Prandelli/ Fiorentina flair, for if they do I believe they can get one or two goals and even get away from Glasgow with a win. My one fear is that they play too defensively because they are on the road. The approach generally worked on Sunday vs. a flawed Palermo team, but Fiorentina plays best when they attack. See their masterpiece at PSV a few weeks ago for the evidence. If they play their game tomorrow, I think they can get out of there with a win.
The game will be televised here in the U.S. at 2:30 EST on FSC.
I will post on the result either tomorrow night on Friday morning. I hope everybody enjoys the game. It should be a blast.
Forza Viola! Forza Viola!