Where We Are
FIORENTINA (1-0-0) 3 pts*
Thursday's performance at the Franchi was less than inspiring, but this was understandable (and should have been expected, really) with very little squad rotation and 3 games in 7 days against fit and organized opponents. Now, after surviving the return leg against Grasshoppers, another test comes early into this frenetic opening to the season, and both the fans and Montella will be watching closely to see how the team performs physically and - especially - mentally. Our road form was a concern for much of last season, and remains a worry after our preseason trip to the Iberian peninsula. Granted, Genoa are closer and less menacing opposition, but dropped points against teams likely to finish in the bottom half of the table will do Fiorentina no favors if they want to finish in European places again this season. The Viola will want to end this opening 4 game spell on a positive note before the international break. All eyes will also be on Neto, with the young goalkeeper ruining a decent first half against Grasshoppers with a terrible mistake which led directly to the goal that changed the match. With the mercato imminently closing and the Viola number one carrying the weight of the piazza on his shoulders, we should all hope for a confidence boosting performance for the young Brazilian, whether Fiorentina end up bringing in a new keeper or not.
Vincenzo Montella will also be tested, and will have to make some difficult choices between pure ability and fresh legs on Sunday. This is a choice he will be confronted with again and again this season, so it will be interesting to dissect his choices. Based on precedents from last year, he has always favored more experienced and reliable lineups to those dependent on "giving players chances" or experimentation. With this in mind, the rumors that many of the lynchpins of this Fiorentina side will likely be included, though Cuadrado, Borja Valero, and Savic are expected to start from the bench, with Mario Gomez also potentially rested. Our usual 3-5-2 will be even more "lopsided" than usual with Joaquin entering the starting lineup on the right, with Pasqual likely more conservative and Tomovic sliding into the right-back slot at times.
Where They Are
GENOA (0-0-1) 0 pts*
Ex-Viola player Fabio Liverani's new charge is looking for its first competitive victory, with the young manager only being handed the reigns to his first Serie A team in June. Last year's Genoa finished an abysmal campaign in 17th place, with only relegated clubs below them. There are many familiar faces in il Grifone to Fiorentina fans outside of their manager, with veterans Alberto Gilardino returning after a loan spell at Bologna last season, and Mario Santana settling there. Add to the mix new signings Francesco Lodi and young keeper Mattia Perin (protagonist of that shut-out performance for Pescara in Florence last season), Genoa has a solid core that may cause Fiorentina problems, especially if Liverani can get them playing coherently behind a noisy home crowd. Also keep your eye out for young Croation left-back Vrsaljko, who was Genoa's best player at Inter last weekend.
Last year's contest ended a 0-1 victory for the visitors, with Manuel Pasqual's first half finish off of a (Bomber) Gonzalo Rodriguez assist proving the difference. It may be a similarly tight affair this time around, but I would certainly take a duplicate result. With fitness a factor, this may well be another match that Fiorentina will try to grind out, leaving us fans to await our florid football on the other side of the international break. I for one am confident that the flair will return; there is too much style in this team (and in our coach) for it not to. But we need to keep picking up results in the meantime.
Fiorentina (3-5-2) Neto; Tomovic, Rodriguez, Compper; Joaquin, Aquilani, Pizarro, Ambrosini, Pasqual; Rossi, Gomez
Genoa (4-3-2-1) Perin; Vrsaljko, Portanova, Manfredini, Antonelli; Cofie, Lodi, Kucka; Santana, Bertolacci; Gilardino
Kick off at 2:45 ET. Not televised in the U.S.