Yesterday in beautiful Florence Mighty Fiorentina drew for the third time in three matches this season vs. their tenacious Portuguese opponents, Sporting Lisbon. The 1-1 draw means the Viola advance to the Champions League group stages, based on the away-goal rule.
I am going to try to play it cool about Jovetic owning the second half last night. If anyone out there doesn’t know how I feel about the kid, simply refer to this representative column I wrote last year. For now, just acknowledge I have been driving the Jo-Jo bandwagon since day one, and try to take it easy with the Gollum jokes. I’m sensitive enough about my ugliness as it is.
That being said, here are a few thoughts about my man and the match he played last night:
• The kid needs to start playing more in the classic number ten role, in the hole behind the strikers. I would love to see him slot in behind Gila and Mutu when they are both healthy. If this creates a logjam in the midfield, so be it. Few of our midfielders have distinguished themselves so far.
• Obviously he scored the only goal last night, but his distribution will only improve, I think, as teammates get more and more used to his flicks and feints in game situations.
• Until Precious came in and started playing that deep-lying role, it seemed as if we had no midfield. Aside from one nice pass all Montolivo did all night was foul the player that led to the set-piece goal. This ultimately is as big a concern as our defensive problems.
• Gamberini is the MAN right now, but how long can he keep it up? Are the boys in the suits coming around to the idea that we need another CB? Some news stories this week indicate they are, but we will see…
• Okay, one last thing about Jovetic before I move on. Just in case you don’t remember, bear in mind he is still about 14 months away from being able to legally buy a beer in the United States. I’m just sayin’…
Following last evening’s round of games, today the group-stage draw was announced. Mighty Fiorentina was placed in Group E, Along with Liverpool, Lyon, and the Hungarian champion, Debreceni.
The gang on the board has had a pretty good debate about whether this was a good draw for us. Pretty good points were made on both sides. This is how I see it. First, I’m not going to pretend to know anything about Debreceni. Really. I got nothing. But everyone pretty much correctly acknowledges that we probably need to take 6 off them to advance. Everyone also pretty much acknowledges that it is going to be tough to take anything from the Scousers. If we could scrape out a draw at home, it would be huge, and very, very helpful. That leaves us with Lyon, who beat us twice last year, but never blew us away. Their club has dealt with serious losses in the past year of some of their strongest players (Benzima tore us apart last season, if you remember) and are no longer the tough-guys of the French League. Could we, say, beat them in Florence and draw them in Lyon? It’s certainly possible, and if everything else goes to plan, than we can probably get through to the knockout stages. So it is not the worst draw I have ever seen. And what the hell? We’re in the Champions League. We’re going to play good teams. We just have to play well ourselves.
At the very least, regardless, we have six more big European nights, which was what all that sweat and hard work was about last year. Let’s enjoy it, and see where this year takes us. And for now, let’s celebrate an important draw last night. Now to get a win this weekend….
Forza Viola, everyone.