Fiorentina head into their third crucial game in the space of eight days on Friday, when they take on AS Roma who have become their closest rivals for a Champions League place. The capital club are tied on 53 points with the Viola, having been revitalised under Coach Luciano Spaletti since he took over from Rudi Garcia in January.
Just four days after comprehensive Europa League defeat away to Tottenham, Paulo Sousa successfully lifted his team against second placed Napoli on Monday - and after a much improved performance - could have taken all three points.
Since the arrival of their new Coach, Roma have taken no less than nineteen points from a maximum of twenty one, rising from fifth to third in Serie A. Midfielder Miralem Pjanic - who scored in the 3-1 victory over Empoli last weekend - will provide an attacking threat, having scored nine goals and provided eight assists in his 23 Serie A appearances this season.
17 -Pjanic has played a hand in 17 Roma's goals this term, only 4 midfielders has done better in the top-5. Composer pic.twitter.com/3ziFBpqbfj— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 1, 2016
Former Roma and Fiorentina midfielder David Pizarro has spoken of the progress made in the Capital after having watched the team's 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona back in January and Saturday's win over Empoli. "They are a totally different team", he acknowledged in an interview with Il Messaggero, and went on to say that "Now I don't think Fiorentina are favourites, in fact I'd say the Giallorossi have something more."
Aside from the injured Daniele De Rossi, Spaletti will have a full strength squad available for selection but will have to manage his squad wisely before the second leg of their Champion's League tie with Real Madrid next Tuesday.
With the league now Fiorentina's sole priority, this key clash in Rome will allow Sousa the freedom to name his strongest lineup. Out of form Josip Ilicic looks set to remain on the bench, whilst Federico Bernardeschi may replace Mati Fernandez in attack. After an outstanding performance against Napoli, Cristian Tello will remain in the starting eleven, but Mauro Zarate will miss out through suspension after an appeal to overturn his three game ban was rejected by the league.
The defensive midfield pairing of Matias Vecino and Milan Badelj is now settled and working efficiently thanks to the latter returning from injury, and he appeared to be in confident mood in the lead up to the game. "I like playing at the Olimpico, last year we won 2-0 there in the Coppa Italia and 3-0 in the Europa League, but this time it'll be harder," he said to Gazzetta dello Sport before smoothing over talk of a problem with the club.
"I don't see another team in my future," Badelj added, and if Fiorentina can replicate their performance against Napoli, there is every chance of him helping to get the desired result on Friday despite a 2-0 defeat in the corresponding fixture last October.
AS Roma: [4-2-3-1] Szczesny; Florenzi, Rudiger, Manolas, Digne; Nainggolan, Keita; Salah, Pjanic, El Shaarawy; Perotti
Fiorentina: [4-2-3-1] Tatarusanu, Roncaglia, Rodriguez, Astori, Alonso; Badelj, Vecino; Tello, Valero, Bernardeschi; Kalinic
TV: BT Sport Europe will be broadcasting the game in the UK. For details where you are, click here
Online: All online viewing options can be found here
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