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Match Preview: Udinese vs. Fiorentina

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Fiorentina return from the international break to face an always-difficult fixture in Udine

Dino Panato

Where We Are

Fiorentina enter this weekend's game holding steady in 5th place, with Hellas Verona unable to defeat their city rivals Chievo in the derby. If the team's overall play has been occasionally inconsistent, Vincenzo Montella can take solace in the recent results obtained by la Viola; they've won 4 of their last 5 in Serie A and have only lost once since September. Of course, much of this run of form has been achieved without record summer purchase Mario Gomez, who has been declared fit this week after suffering a knee injury way back on September 15th. Unfortunately, we will have to go one more week without seeing El Torero playing again. "Marione" will not make the trip with the team because he needs continue to work on his athletic levels (ie running).

Otherwise, Montella has an almost full-strength squad to work with, and appears to be leaning towards a 4-3-3 with two out-and-out wingers - Joaquin on the right and in-form Juan Cuadrado on the left - flanking capocannoniere Giuseppe Rossi. Behind the attacking trident, David Pizarro should return, favored over Massimo Ambrosini, while Alberto Aquilani and Borja Valero are expected to complete the midfield triangle. The defensive line will likely be comprised of Montella's first-choice back 4: Nedad Tomovic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Stefan Savic, and captain Manuel Pasqual.

Where They Are

Udinese come back to Serie A play in the middle of a truly awful start to their campaign. This could be said most years that Francesco Guidolin has been in charge at the Stadio Friuli, but their current form is truly atrocious, losing 4 of their last 5 while scoring only two goals. The annual excuse to the sluggish starts is a high player turnover, but that doesn't explain the Zebrette's misfiring attack this season, usually led magnificently by Antonio Di Natale. Highly-touted talent Luis Muriel hasn't been able to get on track for Udinese, and will likely be on the bench on Sunday, with Di Natale's strike partner instead expected to be the 19 year old Bruno Fernandes. We are likely to catch a glimpse of ex-Viola Andrea Lazzari, a regular starter for Guidolin in his favored 3-5-2; also keep an eye out for Allan, a promising Brazilian mediano.

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This matchup last year was part of Fiorentina's disastrous January campaign, and the match ended 3-1 for Udinese. The game was perhaps most disastrous for our current number 1 (then number 89) Norberto Neto. His short spell of starts ended shortly after his mistake on Muriel's goal, the 3rd and clinching one for the home side. Hopefully this match will prove a vindictive return for the Brazilian keeper (who has looked solid in the past couple months) and for the rest of the team as well.

Because Napoli dropped points this weekend against Parma, Fiorentina have the opportunity to close to within 1 point of the Champions League places with a victory. Of course, it is a difficult field to win on, and the weather is unlikely to do us any favors (it rained today, and will continue until the morning... It's also expected to be rather cold). But the conditions can't be worse than they were away to Dnipro, and the team will know the boost that a big away victory could bring before games against Hellas and Roma. Forza viola, lets get three points!!

Projected Lineups

Udinese (3-5-1-1): Brkic; Heurtaux, Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Pinzi, Allan, Lazzari, Gabriel Silva; Bruno Fernandes; Di Natale (C)

FIORENTINA (4-3-3) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic, Pasqual (C); Aquilani, Pizarro, Borja; Joaquin, Rossi, Cuadrado