Only a short couple months ago, 3rd place was a dream for Fiorentina. Vincenzo Montella appeared to favor cup competitions accordingly with his squad selection, favoring important but fragile first team members like David Pizarro and Mario Gomez for Europa League and Coppa Italia matches. Gomez is injured for this big match away to Lazio, but it will be interesting to see the squad that our Aeroplanino names for this Monday evening Serie A clash against the fourth-place biancoceleste, as the Champions League places are closer than ever.
Lazio are only 1 point ahead of Fiorentina at the moment, and Napoli drew at home against Inter on Sunday, meaning the gap to 3rd place (and the Champions League) is only 4 points, with a Fiorentina win bringing the Viola to within a single point of Rafa Benitez's Napoli. It's still a long season to come, but Fiorentina are in the middle of their most difficult stretch of the season, and a victory away from home against the team directly ahead of them in the table would be a strong signal to rivals and yet another confidence boost for the team.
It's unclear as to whether the timing of this match is fortuitous or not. Certainly Lazio will have to host a very in-form Fiorentina, fresh from 3 huge victories, first in Florence against Tottenham, then on the road against Inter and Juventus. But it'll be interesting to see if key players can sustain their barnstorming form - or will even play - in a week that also sees Fiorentina host Roma in the Europa League Round of 16. Borja Valero and Pizarro were expected to return to the midfield but now may be unable to due to continued physical problems, meaning another hard 90 minutes for the impressive midfield duo of Matias Fernandez and Milan Badelj. Norberto Neto will continue in goal with Ciprian Tatarusanu still recovering from back pain. The attacking trident is forecasted to be Josip Ilicic, Alberto Gilardino, Alessandro Diamanti, although Mohammed Salah - who might be rested to face Roma Thursday - may still start, with Ilicic playing as a false 9 instead of Gilardino. Gila hasn't started a game for Fiorentina since his return this January.
Stefano Pioli has less of a challenge naming his Lazio team than the rotating and injury-hampered Montella, and has been boosted by the news that both club captain Stefano Mauri and starting goalkeeper Federico Marchetti will be fit. Lazio will miss the suspended Marco Parolo in midfield, but lack no goalscoring threat with Felipe Anderson, Miroslav Klose, and Antonio Candreva the expected attacking formation.
Lazio have had Fiorentina's number in recent times, although la Viola are enjoying a spell of much better form and fortune than when Lazio beat them in Florence in October, and this game is set up to be their most engaging and free-flowing encounter yet. Let's hope for yet another huge road win, and to officially reemerge as serious contenders for the Champions League!