On paper Fiorentina - Palermo isn't a dramatic match, with 8th facing 9th, and it will definitely get lost in the headlines with Roma - Lazio and Napoli - Juventus also being played on Sunday. But the relative recent pasts of these two clubs nd the congested nature of a fiercely competitive Serie A table - where only 8 points separate the Champions League and the bottom half - still highlight this as an exciting and crucial match. It is certainly imperative for Fiorentina and coach Vincenzo Montella that they produce a better performance in front of the home fans after the embarrassing meltdowns in the derby against Empoli and then again on Tuesday against Parma.
First the good news. Borja Valero will return to the side after his one match yellow card suspension. Oh, and I suppose the silver lining of Gonzalo Rodriguez and Stefan Savic being banned due to their red cards at Parma is that we won't have to watch Marcos Alonso in the wingback role that he interprets so horribly. He'll likely be in central defense, alongside Nenad Tomovic and Jose Maria Basanta, since Montella appears determined to stick with the 3-5-2 that has sputtered recently, with Juan Cuadrado partnering the increasingly-desperate Mario Gomez. Juan Manuel Vargas and Manuel Pasqual will battle for the left wingback position, while Alberto Aquilani will not be available due to fitness.
If that previous paragraph was a bit messy in its organization, then it was an apt illustration of Fiorentina's recent play. Meanwhile, Palermo under the guidance of ex-Viola midfielder and wily promotion specialist Giuseppe Iachini have really found their groove. The Palermo surge up the table has been, in large part, thanks to the spectacular form of Palermo's incisive Argentinian attacking duo of Paulo Dybala and Franco Vazquez. The Eagles haven't lost since facing Juventus away at the end of October, and will therefore present a more than formidable challenge for the hosts.
Keep an eye on a couple match ups in this one: Fiorentina should have its way in the middle of the park thanks to the technical ability of its midfield trio, but Palermo have a clear advantage in speed running at a very slow 3 man defense. Despite everything, 3rd place will likely still be very much in sight, especially with a big victory. Dare we even dream of a goal from you-know-who? It's the hope that kills you folks. Forza viola!
FIORENTINA (3-5-2): TATARUSANU; TOMOVIC, BASANTA, ALONSO; JOAQUIN, MATI, PIZARRO, BORJA VALERO, PASQUAL; CUADRADO, GOMEZ
Palermo (3-5-2): Sorrentino; Munoz, G. Gonzalez, Feddal; Morganella, Rigoni, Maresca, Barreto, Lazaar; Vazquez, Dybala