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Champions League Play-In - Away Leg Preview

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All right, I'd offer a similar mea culpa to Ted's, but my excuse of a busy job and lots of travel over the last 6 weeks pales in comparison to his job and family life. I'm just an engaged dude who's travel-writer fiancé is currently playing with bears on Kodiak island in Alaska while I'm frantically updating the Viola blog during my lunch break from Uncle Sam's sub-standard computer. I'm not entirely sure if they have the internets in remote parts of Alaska, but you should check out Janelle's blog anyway.

Now, onto the good stuff. Big game coming up in a couple of hours for Fiorentina. Very big. Obviously it is hugely important to the team to qualify for the CL group stage, and the draw was relatively kind to our boys. Not only did Fiorentina draw Sporting Lisbon instead of someone really scary, like the Gooners, but the first leg is away so the squad can look forward to the second 90 minutes at the Artemio Franchi.

I won't even pretend to be especially knowledgeable about our opponents, but I do know a few things we should look out for. First, they have a sweet stadium. Portugal really did a nice job with the money they spent on stadiums to host Euro 2004 and this makes me very impatient for the continued advancement of the Fiorentina stadium project. Second, as a Catholic and therefore a Glasgow Celtic sympathizer, I think the green and white hoops is a hot look (and seriously, after the UEFA Cup semi, what Viola fan could have any love for Rangers?). Third, and most importantly, they have a pretty nice squad, especially the central midfield combination of Miguel Veloso holding and Joao Moutinho playmaking with the dangerous Helder Postiga at the front. There will be a lot of pressure on Fiorentina's central midfielders and defenders to keep the home side off of the score sheet, which, after this summer, is not exactly reasurring.

News Interlude:

Semioli to Samp. For 5 mil. Look, I won't harp on it from earlier in the summer, but suffice to say that I've never been his biggest fan. I hope Corvino takes that cash, combines it with the left over proceeds from the sales of Melo, Osvaldo and Pazzini and gets Rui Costa on the phone. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAN, we cannot go on with Dainelli as our CB if we want to finish in the CL places and advance out of the CL group stage. Get Luisao already.

What Prandelli will be telling the squad:

The boys will know they're in for a tough match, and are well aware of the importance. Also, caution will be the key because of the nature of these European matches. A 0-0 would be all right, but an away goal will be crucial. Hopefully Mutu or Gila will be able to get on the score sheet, that would be a big boost to Fiorentina's qualification hopes.

I saw some speculation on the previous post about the lineup. I think it will be the 4-2-3-1 as that appears to be the direction that Prandelli wants to go. Of course, there is a lack of steel in the back and in the holding positions, but here's what I think we'll see:

Bassy; Pasqual, Gamberini, Dainelli, Comotto; Monto, Zanetti; Vargas, Mutu, Marchionni; Gila Monster.

I guess there could be a chance that Mutu isn't ready for 90 minutes, so maybe Zanetti could move up into the bank of 3 and we could see either Kuz or Donadel alongside Monto in the holding role. I wouldn't fault Ceasare for going conservative in this one. Also, I hope to see Jo-Jo for at least 30 minutes, as he could really make an impact as the legs start to get tired for Sporting.

TeeVee

I still haven't wrapped my head around the way Fox is going to broadcast the CL here in the USA, but I know this game is being replayed at 5pm this evening on FSC. So, if you can stay away from the internet that's an option. Otherwise, we'll exchange some pirated internet streams in the comments.

Prediction:

I'm going for a 1-1. I can't see Fiorentina keeping a clean sheet, but I think that the Gila Monster will get one. In Bassy we trust.

Forza Viola and its good to be back!