The time is approaching. Before we know it we’ll be seeing Fiorentina finish back in their usual fourth spot. A sigh of relief will ensue and we'll all recline in our rocking chairs, scotch in hand, pondering what will have been another impressive season for our boys in purple.
What if I told you that wasn't going to happen, and in fact Fiorentina would be grasping at the metaphorical Europa League rope as it slips through their sweaty palms. If I told you that my friend, I’d be telling you the truth.
With the final stretch of the season approaching like runaway bullet train, I have decided to work out exactly how Fiorentina could end up in their regular Europa League birth. Yes it can happen, but it sure ain’t likely.
The golden spots are 4th, 5th, and 6th (Permitting the Coppa Italia winner & runner-up finish the season between 1st and 5th, thus qualifying via their league finish). If Fiorentina are to be realistic about this, 4th and 5th are out of reach. With Lazio having booked their place in the Coppa Italia final (Inzaghi’s side are 5 points ahead of 6th), whether they face Napoli or most likely Juventus looks irrelevant. Its almost inconceivable to envisage Inzaghi’s Lazio slipping down to 6th or out of European contention completely.
Lazio have Napoli (H), Roma (A), Fiorentina (A) and Inter (H) during the run in. Effectively 3 home ties sets them up nicely for a top 5 finish. Barring no catastrophic errors from Pippo’s men, they look like they've got Europe signed, sealed and delivered, and deservedly so.
So, that means 6th spot (Qualification to Europa League qualifying rounds) is up for grabs. Leaving Fiorentina’s run-in til last, lets take a look at how the other candidates for Europe shape up.
Milan - 7th - 54 points (3pts ahead of Fiorentina)
The Rossoneri’s run in sees them take on:
Palermo (H), Inter (A), Empoli (H), Crotone (A), AS Roma (H), Atalanta (A), Bologna (H), Cagliari (A).
Ironically, Milan’s run in spells HAHAHAHA, which may infact be their initial reaction when they look at their fixtures. In that list, Inter, Roma and Atalanta stand out as biggies. However both Crotone and Empoli are in the process of fighting for their survival in Serie A, and both games will be tough for Montella’s men. If there is any team likely to slip up, it’s Milan. Their run in is tricky, but unfortunately without a fixture against Fiorentina, its out of La Viola’s hands.
Inter - 6th - 55 points (4pts ahead of Fiorentina)
The Nerazzurri’s run in sees them take on:
Crotone (A), Milan (H), Fiorentina (A), Napoli (H), Genoa (A), Sassuolo (H), Lazio (A), Udinese (H).
Pioli’s miracle working post-De Boer disaster has managed to fire Inter back into serious contention, with their loss against Sampdoria realistically ending their chances of a 3rd place finish. Milan, Napoli and Lazio are stand outs, and of course Fiorentina. The match at the Artemio Franchi may prove to be vitally important in the final placings, but I wouldn't hold your breath. Right now, taking into recent form and the fact Inter’s squad is so much better than Fiorentina’s, it seems unlikely such a comeback would be on.
A whole 7 points ahead of Fiorentina is Atalanta, who look nailed on for a top 5 finish, and rightfully so.
Its clear than Fiorentina haven’t half made this hard for themselves. Effectively, with the only real self defining moment being the home game against Inter, Fiorentina are left praying for a miracle.
And finally, here we are...
Fiorentina - 8th - 51 points (4pts off 6th place)
The Gigliati’s run in sees them take on:
Sampdoria (A), Empoli (H), Inter (H), Palermo (A), Sassuolo (A), Lazio (H), Napoli (A), Pescara (H).
Ok, so let’s throw any blind faith out the window and look at this strategically. The crux of the run in is out of Fiorentina's hands; that's the price you pay for such a topsy-turvy season. If Inter continue to pick up points, and Milan can stay within a point of them, their day of destiny will come in the Derby della Madonnina.
If both Milan sides pick up a win in their next fixtures, (Milan play Palermo (H) and Inter play Crotone (A) ) Fiorentina need to keep pace with a win over Sampdoria at the Luigi Ferraris, which certainly isn't a walk in the park. If either Milan side manages to stretch their legs and extend the gap on match day 31, its look lights out for Fiorentina.
Frustratingly, all this could have been avoided had Fiorentina just been really un-Fiorentina like. Paulo Sousa will want to finish his final season in Florence as strongly as he can, and if there is any glimmer of hope of qualifying for Europe, that means picking up maximum points and praying for both Inter and Milan to shoot themselves in the foot.