It's only round 11 of Serie A, but Fiorentina have spilled too many points already. Only three wins so far is not nearly enough for a team that wants to play in Champions League next season. And now, the viola are welcoming Napoli, another team that started the season slowly, but has recently found the form. A loss is not an option for Vincenzo Montella and his squad, the third place is already seven points away, another failure could mean the end of the dream.
Montella will have most of the player at his disposal, except of course Giuseppe Rossi and Federico Bernardeschi who have months before they come back. Midweek saw both Mario Gomez and Marko Marin getting minutes, but it's unlikely they will start the game. Different story for Mati Fernandez -- depending on what formation Montella goes for, the Chilean might reclaim his spot in the starting eleven. If it's a 4-3-1-2, in all likelihood, Mati will be behind the forwards.
The alternative, according to reports, is a 4-3-3, with Josip Ilicic and Juan Cuadrado accompanying Khouma El Babacar up front. The problem with both of those options is - they don't work. A 4-3-1-2 is too narrow, especially for the opponent like Napoli, whose main strength is the use of both flanks. Not to mention that their best players at the moment are Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne... Ilicic, on the other hand, is yet to show he deserves the confidence Montella has in him. And, when he is playing, even though it is nominally a 4-3-3, Fiorentina is still too narrow.
Another option might be the real 4-3-3, with Cuadrado and, for example, Manuel Vargas or Joaquin on each flanks. Let's not forget, the Spaniard was the man who scored the only goal in Fiorentina's 1-0 victory in Naples last season. Perhaps it's time that he got another chance, since most other things failed to produce the expected results.
Rafa Benitez has much less doubts about the team. The only problem is Marek Hamsik, who missed the midweek Europa League game against Young Boys, but should be fit. If not, the hat trick hero from that game, Julian De Guzman, will take his place. Jorginho and David Lopez have been solid in the midfield, and the weakest spot in recent years - defense, is now in place, with Kalidou Koilibaly showing signs of turning into a great center back.
Games between these two teams are nothing if not unpredictable. Often times do surprises occur, and the team in inferior form manages to win. Also, often the away team wins. Last season, Napoli won at Franchi, Fiorentina conquered San Paolo.
Fiorentina and Napoli played 73 times in Florence, 67 Serie A games, and 6 in Coppa Italia. The viola have 37 wins, but the last one came five years ago. Napoli won 16 times, including the last season when it was 2-1.
Projected line ups:
Fiorentina (4-3-1-2): Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Savic, Alonso; Aquilani, Pizarro; Borja Valero; Mati Fernandez; Babacar, Cuadrado
Napoli (4-2-3-1): Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Lopez; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain
Fiorentina: 10th; 3W 4D 3L;
Napoli: 5th; 5W 3D 2L;
How to watch:
beIN Sports USA (U.S.), RAI International (U.S.), Premium Calcio/HD (Italy), BT Sport 1 (U.K.)
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S.), SKY Go Italia (Italy)