Where We Are
Two wins hard-fought wins after a rough patch have the team feeling good again, with the additional exciting certainty of a Coppa Italia final to come in May. Now Vincenzo Montella must quickly make his team leave behind the euphoria of the midweek to focus on a big match against Inter, which will again have the Artemio Franchi full and bouncing. Despite recovering Mario Gomez (who will begin from the bench and almost definitely get some minutes in the second half), Montella still has a couple selection problems to solve. A return to the 3-5-2 is on the cards, a formation which suits the attributes of both Gomez and Alessandro Matri.
Nenad Tomovic could return to the starting eleven after recovering from a minor knee injury, while Stefan Savic won't play because of injury and will be replaced with veteran Marvin Compper. Borja Valero is suspended due to yellow card accumulation while Alberto Aquilani will likely be rested after his Coppa exertions fresh off of an inury, so David Pizarro will see Anderson and Matias Fernandez ahead of him in the midfield trident, with a South American contingency of Juan Cuadrado and Juan Manuel Vargas expected to run the wings. Joaquin and Ilicic is the game-time decision in the second striker role, although the Spaniard's recent positive form makes him the favorite for the press.
Where They Are
Walter Mazzarri and his nerazzurri have had an atrocious beginning to 2014 in Serie A, without a win in the New Year until defeating Sassuolo last weekend at home 1-0. A disappointing loss in the Coppa Italia to Udinese only added to Inter's woes as they began a new era under owner Erick Thohir. They still retain 5th place, but only on goal difference since they are level on points with 6th place Hellas Verona, and remain 8 points away from Fiorentina in 4th. Fun fact: Mazzarri's Inter have only managed 3 goals in 7 games since the end of December.
The former Napoli boss has an essentially full strength squad at his disposal, with only young talent Mateo Kovacic sidelined in order to let a cut fully heal. That means new signing Hernanes will play in central midfield and attempt to lend a creative spark to Inter's attacking play. Keep an eye on ex-Torino winger Danilo D'Ambrosio, a talented and complete player entering his prime who will face off against Vargas, and Diego Milito, who is returning from yet another injury worry.
It's difficult for us fans to live in an optimistic Fiorentina moment, because both history and natural Viola-fan fatalism makes us expect any positivity to backfire horribly. This game is a case in point: a struggling "big" team on a negative run is coming to Florence to play a home team filled with enthusiasm. Naturally my knee-jerk reaction as a life-long Fiorentina fan is that Inter will produce a fantastic performance and kickstart their season against us.
But Montella's Fiorentina, more so than Prandelli's, has shown up for the big games (and I would very much argue that this team is still in a process of growth, for a myriad of reasons). Our best performance of the season last year was against Inter at home, and our Serie A record against the "other top 6" (Juventus, Roma, Napoli, Inter, Milan, Lazio) is a respectable 6-4-8, with the performances often far better than the results. Factor in the potential impact of a second half Mario Gomez substitution (especially for the crowd), and this game isn't worrying me at the moment. Maybe it should, but there we are. Forza viola amici, here's hoping for another fantastic atmosphere at the Franchi and all of the Viola Nation around the world cheering along!!
FIORENTINA (3-5-2) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Compper; Cuadrado, Anderson, Pizarro, Mati Fernandez, Vargas; Joaquin, Matri
Inter (3-5-2) Handanovic; Rolando, Samuel, Juan Jesus; D'Ambrosio, Guarin, Kuzmanovic, Hernanes, Nagatomo; Milito, Palacio