This is the start of a very big week for the Viola. On Wednesday, Fiorentina plays the second leg of their Champions League tie against Slavia Prague. I will try to get a small preview of the match up tomorrow, although I won’t have much more to say than what I did in the preview of the first leg. On Sunday, of course, the regular season begins with a massive game versus our old friends in the black and white stripes. Towards the weekend we will be focusing all of our energies there.
But in the meantime I wanted to get a least a brief season preview of the team up on the site. I always feel a little funny writing season previews, since it seems to suggest we are getting to know the team anew each fall, when in fact we have been with them all throughout the summer. Still, the start of the season is a good time to look back on what has happened this summer and where we are going this year. First, though, let’s look back.
Last season was a wonderful year by almost any standard for Viola fans. Our team finished fourth in Series A (memorably clobbering Juventus on the road along the way) and clinched the spot in the Champions League that we are now enjoying. We also had an inspired run in the UEFA Cup, only falling in the semi-finals to a Rangers club intent on playing negative football. The season witnessed star turns from Adrian Mutu and Bassy Frey, and witnessed the coming out parties of Pablo Osvaldo and Ricky Montolivo, who played like a beast in the second half of the season. The club was led by the brilliant tactician Cesare Prandelli (referred to as “The Great Man” around these parts) who was inspiring for his team in spite of the tragic death of his beloved wife in the midst of the season. Fiorentina not only won last season, but they won with attacking verve, and won with the class that sets them apart from other teams on the continent.
Fiorentina may have not spent the most money in football this summer, but they were surely among the most active clubs during the transfer season. The players they brought in combine youthful potential with ability that allows them to contribute NOW, as the team loads up for a Champions League run. It is heartening, as a fan of a club, to know that they realize that this is their moment and that they must seize it by getting the best players available. The signing of Gilardino got most of the headlines, but there are three or four potential stars that were brought in this transfer season. Let’s take a look at some of the most important moves involving Fiorentina this summer.
Felipe Melo (Unión Deportiva Almería)
Alberto Gilardino (A.C. Milan)
Stevan Jovetić (FK Partizan)
Gianluca Comotto (Torino)
Juan Manuel Vargas (Calcio Catania)
Luciano Zauri (S.S. Lazio)
Fabio Liverani (U.S. Città di Palermo)
Christian Vieri (Atalanta)
Tomáš Ujfaluši (Atletico Madrid)
As I said, Gila gets most of the press, and if he finds the form he had a few years ago, (when he played with Mutu and Prandelli) he could return to the 20-goals-a-season form. Reports have been mixed so far. The signings of Jovetic and Vargas have been met with much more enthusiasm, as watchers have raved about their talent. Vargas is ready to help right now, while Jovetic (and his hideous man-perm) is probably one for the future, but some reports indicate he is might be ready to help now. Comotto should help shore up a back line that lost Tomas Ujfalusi, and most skeptics view the centerbacks as the Viola’s weakest link, but the addition of Felipe Melo as a defensive destroyer in the midfield (and one who has looked fabulous in the pre-season) gives us hope that the defense will be okay.
The Coming Season:
There is virtually no way to envision the upcoming season being easy. Assuming things come right against Slavia later this week, we will have qualified for the Champions League’s group stage. That leaves us with a schedule overflowing with tough games. In the league, we start the season vs. Juve, and then go on the road to Napoli. I would love to see at least four points from those two matches. I want to set a tone of success early. With the matches piling on top of each other, injuries will happen (in fact, they are happening already) and depth and resilience will be needed to have success this season. That is why players like young Stevan Jovetic are so important: they will start the season as squad players, but could be thrust into starting roles at any moment.
Key Questions as we Enter the Season:
1). Will we get the Gila of four years ago, or the Milan Gila? In other words, will he score 23 goals, or 7?
2). How will our back line hold up? Will players like Jorgenson and Per Koldrup be able to defend at the Champions League level?
3). Will any of our promising young guns (Montolivo, Pazzini, and Osvaldo) take the next step from “promising young player” to “Superstar?”
4). Will the other new guys (Melo, Jovetic, Vargas, etc.) play as well as hoped?
5). Will we have to rely on Bassy Frey to make one heroic save after another next season, or will we play better in the last third?
6). How will we do against the big four (Inter, Milan, Juve and Roma) in the league this season? Yes, we beat Juve on the road last year. But otherwise, our record vs. those teams was not good. We need to start taking points from them if we are going to be one of the big boys.
7). Finally, how will we do against the REALLY big boys in the CL? With the right draw, I think we might be able to get out of the group, but of course we need to get in the group first. We will see on Wednesday.
Before every league game last season I offered my predictions. As everyone who reads me knows, I am ridiculously optimistic when it comes to Fiorentina. I think I predicted that they would win more than 90% of their matches last season. And frankly, I don’t care if I was wrong a bunch of the time. I love my club and always believe they can win.
So in a way, I would like to predict that Fiorentina will win the Scudetto and the Champions League. And a little part of me definitely believes this. But I will be more realistic and somber for you today. First, I officially predict that Fiorentina will finish third in the upcoming Series A Season:
Finally, I predict that Fiorentina will make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League (the last eight, in other words) and will only be eliminated late in the second leg of their match against Manchester United at Old Trafford when Ricky Montolivo is called for a non-existent phantom foul on Christiano Ronaldo in the box when Ronaldo slips on some of the hair gel that had slid off his head. Viola fans will look on in horror as he glides the penalty shot past a diving, outstretched Bassy Frey into the back of the net, but I will look on safe in the knowledge that the better team was only a bad call away from being Champions of Europe. Then we will all go to beautiful Florence, and celebrate our team long into the good night.
That’s all for now. Be beck with Champions League news soon. Forza Viola!