With Cesare Prandelli back in charge of Fiorentina, and having played with Atalanta and also started his managerial career at the club, I thought I’d take a look back at his previous spell with Fiorentina and how his teams fared on their trips to Bergamo.
Prandelli took over at Fiorentina for the 2005/06 season but his former club Atalanta were down in Serie B for that season, but they did win promotion which brings us to the sides meeting in Bergamo for the 2006/07 season, on the 1st April 2007. There were another couple of ex Atalanta players on the Viola side, Riccardo Montolivo and Giampaolo Pazzini both having started in Bergamo as youth players before breaking into the senior side.
Pazzini had joined Fiorentina from Atalanta in the middle of the 2004/05 season while Montolivo made the same move at the start of the 2005/06 season. In the Atalanta side was a former Fiorentina player, Luca Ariatti. Ariatti had joined what was then Florentia Viola mid-way through the Serie C2 season of 2002/03, he stayed with Fiorentina through the promotion season from Serie B and their first season back in the top flight.
He had joined Atalanta in 2005/06 helping them win promotion from Serie B. (The following season he would join Lecce in Serie B where he would again be part of a promotion winning side, seems like he was something of a good luck charm)
Back to the game, and although Fiorentina had started the season with a punishment of minus fifteen points, after the Calciopoli scandal, they were still five points ahead of Atalanta coming into this match. Fiorentina looked to be in control of the game after little over half an hour. Although without Adrian Mutu for this game, he was serving a suspension and with their other top scorer Luca Toni on the bench, not 100% fit, they were still 2-0 up thanks to goals from Reginaldo and a Pazzini penalty.
In Pazzini, they had a player full of confidence. He had just returned from playing with the Italian Under 21 side, who took part in the first ever game at the new Wembley Stadium, taking on England. Pazzini not only became the first ever player to score there, after only 25 seconds, but he went on to score a hat-trick in a 3-3 thriller.
Unfortunately Fiorentina would concede a goal before the break to Simone Loria, the player responsible for giving away the earlier penalty for a push on Martin Jørgensen. At the start of the second half, Stefano Colantuono decided to bring on both Nicola Ventola and Cristiano Doni. Sebastian Frey needed to make a couple of good saves to keep Fiorentina ahead but he could do nothing when Atalanta were awarded a penalty which Doni put away with 25 minutes left to play.
Prandelli at this stage opted to throw Luca Toni into the mix, replacing Pazzini, Mario Santana having already replaced Reginaldo. Fiorentina however were unable to get the winning goal. Fiorentina would still go on to finish the season in 6th place despite their 15 point punishment, which also meant qualification for the UEFA Cup. Atalanta ended the season two places behind the Viola.
The following season, 2007/08 Fiorentina travelled to Bergamo in February, riding high in fourth place, eight points ahead of Atalanta back in 7th. Luigi Del Neri had taken over from Colantuono this season after he left to join Palermo. It was the two ex Atalanta players who combined for the first goal, Montolivo’s ball into the box, controlled by Pazzini who turned and shot low into the far corner just before the half hour mark. Just a minute later though and from a corner Zlatan Muslimović had Atalanta level.
On the hour mark Fiorentina were back in front, Franco Semioli heading home a cross from Zdravko Kuzmanović. Fiorentina looked to be taking all three points this time, but right on the 90 minute mark, Simone Inzaghi and Fernando Tissone combined and Tissone’s low cross was met by Muslimović again, and Atalanta grabbed a last minute draw. Fiorentina would send the season still in fourth place which meant qualification for the Champions League. Atalanta meanwhile slipped down to ninth spot.
In 2008/09 when the sides met in Bergamo in April for a lunch-time kick off, Fiorentina were again chasing a Champions League place, sitting in fifth place two points behind Genoa. Both sides were missing quite a few players, Del Neri’s Atalanta were without the injured Doni and Ferreira Pinto, and the suspended trio of Manfredini, Cigarini and Guarente. Prandelli meanwhile after the international break would need to plan without Adrian Mutu, Felipe Melo, Martin Jørgensen and Per Krøldrup. Alessandro Gamberini was suspended, and as if that wasn’t enough he lost Gianluca Comotto to injury in the pre-match warm up.
After a goalless first half, it was Atalanta who took the lead four minutes after the break. Gianvito Plasmati the scorer having only come on as a second half substitute, his shot taking a deflection off Luciano Zauri. Just before the hour mark and Fiorentina had themselves a penalty and Atalanta were down to ten men, Federico Peluso sent off for his foul on Gilardino. Stevan Jovetić made no mistake from the spot to beat Andrea Consigli and draw Fiorentina level. He was later replaced by Juan Vargas but the game looked to be heading for yet another draw between the sides until the 89th minute when Alberto Gilardino grabbed the late winner. He had already had a decent looking goal disallowed but this time the goal stood and Fiorentina came away from Bergamo with all three points.
Fiorentina went on to take that fourth spot and Champions League place, thanks to their better head to head record with Genoa. Atalanta would finish in 11th place. Eleventh place was where Fiorentina would end up the following season in what was to be Cesare Prandelli’s last season in charge, before his return this season.
In the 2009/10 season the sides met in Bergamo yet again in April, Fiorentina were in 9th place, still with faint hopes of grabbing a Europa League place, while Atalanta were down in the relegation zone. Bortolo Mutti was the man in charge by then, Antonio Conte having resigned, he had taken over from Angelo Gregucci after just four games this season.
This was a poor performance from Prandelli’s side, finding themselves 2-0 down after goals from Ferreira Pinto and Simone Tiribocchi. Riccardo Montolivo did pull one back but in truth they never looked like taking even a point from this game. Which meant Prandelli’s first loss in Bergamo in charge of Fiorentina. Things didn’t get any better after this, for both sides. In the remaining four games, they both only managed one draw and four losses. For Atalanta this would mean relegation.
Fiorentina had maybe used up a lot of their energy in the Champions League that season, where they would beat Liverpool both home and away, and only went out controversially on away goals to Bayern Munich. They also made it to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, losing out to Inter Milan.
After this defeat to Atalanta, they followed it up with a home defeat to Chievo, a loss at the San Siro to AC Milan, a home draw with Siena and going down on the last day away to Bari, which allowed Bari to leap frog Fiorentina to take 10th place. A disappointing end to Cesare Prandelli’s mostly successful time in charge of the club.
Taking a look at his overall record with Fiorentina against Atalanta, in the four away games he came away with one win, two draws and one defeat. His home record was even more impressive, three wins and one draw. So just one defeat in eight clashes with his former club.
After the game in Bergamo he had said that he hoped to have a more competitive squad for the following season, as he had been promised by the club. In the end, it wasn’t to be, but now he finds himself back at the club, and while he hasn’t got off to the best of starts, it is still early days, and a trip back to Bergamo could just be the chance of a new beginning for his team.