I really don’t have that much more to say. Normally when I preview a game, I’m just reporting the basic information about the upcoming match. All the hardcore fans of Fiorentina already know all the stuff I’m saying, but at least I’m getting information to the causal fans of the team and the game in general. Tomorrow’s match, however, is different. With the Viola’s wonderful season continuing, there is unprecedented and continuing attention on the team. I’ve seen so many previews and articles about tomorrow’s match that I almost feel like mine is redundant, even though I’ve been paying attention to the team long before these big media outlets.
Even if it has all been said, they are still playing the match tomorrow. In case you’ve been living in a cave, tomorrow is the second leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final between Fiorentina and Rangers. The first leg was played in Scotland, and the teams drew 0-0 in a match where Rangers played very negative, defensive football. In Ranger’s defense, however, much of their starting line-up was missing through injury and suspension. Many of those players will return tomorrow.
So what does tomorrow hold? The match will be played in Florence, and Fiorentina has been very strong at home, regardless of the last-second draw they suffered at the hands of Sampdoria on Sunday. Rangers, on the other hand, are not a strong road team, and they are going through something of a rough patch at the moment. Still, we all know that one odd goal by Rangers will mean that Fiorentina must score two to go on to the final; thus careful defense combined with aggressive attacks will be the only way the Viola can advance to the final.
The players and coaching staff, of course, know just how important tomorrow’s match is. Adrian Mutu thinks it is easily the most important of the year, while Coach Prandelli thinks the fans will have to play a significant role for the team to get a win.
And what do I think? I’ve watched Fiorentina all year. I’ve watched some bad things (like their mid-season inability to hold on to leads and their destruction by Lazio in the Italian Cup) but mostly I’ve seen good things, like their swashbuckling attacking play, their never-say-die attitude and their ability to get a big goal when they need one. (Such as in the Juventus and PSV wins). I’ve seen them hang on like grim death to the fourth spot in Series A and refuse to lose in the UEFA Cup. And I expect more good things tomorrow. The team will come out attacking, and then they will attack again and again. Rangers is a good club who plays solid defense, but I do not think they can keep Fiorentina out of the net for 180 minutes, especially when the last 90 is at home. I also think Fiorentina can handle whatever Rangers throw at them.
In other words, I think Fiorentina will win.
Recent Form (All Competitions)
Starting Line-Ups (AKA The Blind Guess Department)
Rangers: 13-Neil Alexander; 21-Kirk Broadfoot, 30-Christian Dailly, 24-Carlos Cuellar, 5-Sasa Papac; 7-Brahim Hemdani, 6-Barry Ferguson, 8-Kevin Thomson, 35-Steven Davis, 28-Steven Whittaker; 19-Jean-Claude Darcheville.
Fiorentina: 1-Sebastien Frey; 20-Martin Jorgensen, 21-Tomas Ujfalusi, 5-Alessandro Gamberini, 19-Massimo Gobbi; 4-Marco Donadel, 11-Fabio Liverani, 18-Riccardo Montolivo; 24-Mario Alberto Santana, 29-Giampaolo Pazzini, 10-Adrian Mutu.
2-0 Fiorentina, and onto Bayern and old friend Luca in the Final.
The match will be broadcast here in the U.S. on FSC at 2:30 EST, immediately following the Bayern game. I will post the recap Thursday night or Friday.
Forza Viola. Forza Viola. Forza Viola.