Ok, stop me if you've heard this one before. Fiorentina host Milan with big European implications on the line. In the first year of Vincenzo Montella's tenure, a disgraceful 2-2 ensued, with penalties for both sides and gobs of ludicrous refereeing decisions. And last season, an insipid 0-2 defeat that ended even the faintest Viola hopes for 3rd. While Montella has had Milan's number away from the Artemio Franchi, hosting the once-dominant rossoneri has proved a challenge for his team.
But there couldn't be a better time for Fiorentina to beat Milan in Florence, as Napoli lost against Hellas Verona this weekend (Luca Toni, ti voglio bene…) and Lazio face a difficult match away at Torino. Of course, the match has been made more difficult for Fiorentina as it comes on the back end of a tour-de-force of games that leaves the squad bloodied and bruised. Stefan Savic hasn't been called up so that he can be 100% for the big second leg against Roma on Thursday, and I would anticipate Mohammed Salah, Khouma Babacar, and Borja Valero to rest as well, although it could be Matias Fernandez's turn to take a well-earned breather. The now-indispensable Milan Badelj will continue in the side, especially with the minor injury to David Pizarro. In attack, it should be a debut start for Alberto Gilardino against one of his former clubs, with Alessandro Diamanti and an improving Josip Ilicic supporting in a Christmas tree formation. I wouldn't rule out a start for Juan Manuel Vargas though, especially if Gila heads the forward line. Viola fans will be hoping that this attacking rotation works more like it did against Inter, and less like it did against Lazio.
As for the visitors, well it's been another poor season for the Galliani & Berlusconi Circus of Free Transfers. This season Milan has actually spent real money on some players, signing likely-starters Giacomo Bonaventura from Atalanta, Luca Antonelli from Genoa, and Mattia Destro from Roma, but their form has hardly improved: they have only 3 wins in 2015, and they came at home against Sassuolo, Cesena, and financial tire fire Parma. Sure Fiorentina are playing in more competitions, but Fiorentina have won 9 games in that time, and will look to continue the habit.
This game and the one on Thursday in Rome are both key for achieving some tangible success this season, and they are tied together because of the state of the squad. The team reacted well to the Lazio drubbing on Thursday despite the disappointing result. So with that midweek boost, It'll be really interesting to see which of this week's games Montella prioritizes, and if his choices pay off. Vincenzo should know the squad and the opposition well enough by now; so do the players. Let's play for glory.
FIORENTINA (4-3-2-1): NETO; RICHARDS, GONZALO, BASANTA, PASQUAL; AQUILANI, BADELJ, MATI; DIAMANTI, ILICIC; GILARDINO
Milan (4-3-1-2): Diego Lopez; Abate, Paletta, Mexes, Antonelli; Van Ginkel, Essien, Bonaventura; Honda; Destro, Menez