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Fiorentina vs. Udinese: Match Preview

Fiorentina host Udinese hoping to kickstart their Serie A campaign

Gabriele Maltinti

A tough match at the San Siro is behind the team, but there isn't much time to analyse the performance because Udinese awaits. It's another in a series of complicated matches, but at this point Fiorentina has little choice -- whatever the name of the opposition is, we need to start winning.

It won't be an easy game for Vincenzo Montella and his team. The pressure has grown, and what seemed impossible to imagine few months ago - that Montella's position could be at risk - now doesn't seem entirely unrealistic. Third place at the end of the season is goal that club owners feel must be reached, and the viola already lost enough points at home.

Three points against Udinese would go a long way in kickstarting Fiorentina's season, especially in light of the games that come after. Udinese at home, Sampdoria at Marassi, PAOK in Europa League (in which even a point could secure the first place in group), and then a huge game against Napoli. Luckily, third place is not at all out of reach. Fiorentina remains only six points behind the current third and fourth place teams, Udinese and Sampdoria.

It certainly hasn't helped our season that the aeroplanino has to do without key players pretty much constantly. Mario Gomez is back in team training, but still not completely fit. The same goes for David Pizarro, while Gonzalo Rodriguez is suspended. One of the very few bright spots in Fiorentina's season so far, Mati Fernandez, suffered an injury recently and will be out. Plus, of course, Giuseppe Rossi.

It's expected that Josip Ilicic will fill in Mati's place. Hopefully, a goal and a good performance against Milan is a sign of a new and improved Ilicic. It remains to be seen if he will literally take Mati's spot behind the two forwards, or possibly cover the left side of the attack in a 4-3-3 formation. Khouma El Babacar and Juan Cuadrado are expected to start once again. The Colombian recently signed a new contract, but it hasn't seemed to help him perform -- he was among the worst Fiorentina players in the last two games.

When it comes to defense, there are few options. One is to move Nenad Tomovic centrally, with Micah Richards as a right back. Alternatiely, we might see Jose Maria Basanta as Stefan Savic's partner in the center of defense. Il capitano Manuel Pasqual could take Marcos Alonso spot, after a few less than impressive games.

Udinese has far fewer selection problems. The only big one is the potential playing time of Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, who is back from injury but probably won't start. Reports in Italian papers suggest Andrea Stramaccioni might rest Antonio Di Natale after the short turnaround from the weekend. Stramaccioni uses various formations, depending on the opponent, but will most likely opt for a 4-3-3, with Luis Muriel and Panagiotis Kone behind Cyril Thereau (or Di Natale).

History teaches us there is definitely room for optimism. Udinese don't really like visiting at Artemio Franchi -- they haven't won a single point since 2007. In 38 previous meetings at the Franchi, Fiorentina have won 23 times, lost 5, and there were 10 draws.

Here is the Fiorentina squad for the match:

Goalkeepers: Neto, Tatarusanu, Lupatelli

Defenders: Alonso, Basanta, Hegazi, Pasqual, Richards, Savic, Tomovic

Midfielders: Aquilani, Badelj, Borja Valero, Kurtic, Lazzarri, Marin, Pizarro, Vargas

Forwards: Babacar, Bernardeschi, Cuadrado, Gomez, Ilicic, Joaquin.