Where We Are
Despite last weekend's nearly-unwatchable stumble against Udinese, Fiorentina enter this fixture with the opportunity to draw level with 4th place Inter and put the pressure on a faltering 3rd place Napoli. Heavy rotation midweek in Portugal for their Europa League match resulted in a flat 0-0 draw for the Viola on American Thanksgiving, but also means that the team's key players should be fit and ready to impress in front of the home fans.
Vincenzo Montella has a couple key decisions to make in the team to face Hellas Verona. Alberto Aquilani will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation, and will likely be replaced by the experience and work ethic of Massimo Ambrosini. A minor muscular problem has sidelined Manuel Pasqual for a week or two, and it seems as though Juan Manuel Vargas is being preferred over Marcos Alonso. The selection of Vargas (to me) points a return to the 3-5-2, with Tomovic, Gonzalo, and Savic completing the defense, Cuadrado back on his favored right wing, and Joaquin likely to pair capocannoniere Giuseppe Rossi up front. However, if the personnel is as predicted we can expect the formation to be fairly fluid, especially in wide areas.
Where They Are
Hellas Verona have been the surprise of the Serie A campaign so far, sitting pretty in 6th place with 22 points, as many as Pescara managed in all of last season. For a club in its first season in Serie A since 2002, it's been impressive to say the least. At the same time, Verona is yet to take any "big" scalps this season outside of a currently dire Milan; a win in Florence would go along way towards establishing their credibility as a top-half-of-the-table side. A good performance against Fiorentina might also help erase the memories of last weekend's painful derby defeat to Chievo Verona.
Head coach Andrea Mandorlini has established an exceptionally solid unit after 3 years as head coach of the gialloblu, with a nice balance of young talent (Iturbe, Jorginho) and experienced Serie A veterans, several of which are also ex-Fiorentina players. A resurgent Luca Toni has been in exceptional form for Verona, as is Viola-loanee Romulo. Also on the roster is our old midfield grafter Marco Donadel, although he isn't expected to start for the visitors. Mandorlini is expected to play his full first-choice starting eleven, despite saying in a press conference that some of those regular starters were "tired."
The only way to add more kick to the narrative sauce of this game would have been to throw in a healthy Mario Gomez return, but since we won't be rewarded with that tasty morsel for a little while longer (anyone know how much longer? Bueller? Bueller?) we will have to settle for what this game is... and it is spicy. This should be a matchup between two good, well-coached teams with points to prove and a lot on the line in the standings. Off the field, keep an eye on gestures from the respective ultras. There has been a famous friendship between the club supporters of Fiorentina and Hellas Verona, teams who have been "twinned" since the mid-70s. The gemellaggio (and Verona’s return to Serie A) was celebrated in Florence with a full day of festivities on Sunday, including 7 v 7 games between supporters clubs. The good feelings are likely to continue into the game with chants and banners, which should make for an excellent atmosphere.
Fiorentina will have to beware both "the goal of the ex" and "the goal of the transfer target" with Toni, Romulo, and Jorginho playing for the visitors. Meanwhile, Montella will be hoping we can rediscover some of the passing play and general swagger we displayed for most of the game against Sampdoria. It'll be interesting to see how Vargas and Ambrosini change the rhythm and shape of the side, and a really good game from Pizarro would be especially important today (as well as a bit overdue). Gabriel Batistuta is back in Florence visiting and is supposed to be at the stadium for the match, so let's get a big three points for our beloved "Re Leone" and head towards the top again! FORZA VIOLA!
FIORENTINA (3-5-2) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic; Cuadrado, Ambrosini, Pizarro, Borja Valero, Vargas; Joaquin, Rossi
Hellas Verona (4-3-3) Rafael; Cacciatore, Gonzalez, Maietta, Agostini; Romulo, Jorginho, Hallfredsson; Iturbe, Toni, Gomez
This game will be broadcast LIVE on beIN sport (in the U.S.A.) with coverage beginning at 12:55 EST.