Fiorentina v Inter Milan, Coppa Italia semi-final second-leg, April 13, 2010
It’s deja vu in Florence on Tuesday night as, after playing out an exciting 2-all draw at the weekend in Serie A, Fiorentina again play host to Inter Milan in the cup.
On Saturday, Inter looked to have shown their character and tenacity coming from a goal down to lead at the Stadio Artemio Franchi with less than 10 minutes remaining. But barely 90 seconds had passed after Samuel Eto’o put them in front when Per Kroldrup equalised. That left the champions stewing over a poor record of just 15 points from their last 11 games.
At the start of February Inter won the first leg of the semi-final 1-nil in Milan courtesy of a Diego Milito strike. But a lot has changed since then domestically for Inter, with the Viola having contributed to Nerazzurri’s falling off the top flight summit just last weekend when they held Mourinho’s men in the league. Roma subsequently moved into pole position for the Scudetto, while the black and blues still habour hopes for a domestic league and cup double as well as the big one – Champions League success.
Contrasting the multiple trophies still in sight for Inter, Fiorentina’s best chance at success this season comes in the Coppa Italia.
The Viola have struggled throughout the season, and although they have made a charge up the table since the turn of the year they are still off the pace of the front-runners. It looks increasingly likely that Fiorentina will lose out on Champions League qualification lying in eighth position, eight points off the fourth and final Champions League spot. And a Europa League place is also by no means a guarantee either, as the Gigliati are five points behind sixth-placed Juventus.
So Fiorentina need to win by two clear goals on Tuesday night to reach the final. But can they do it?
The Viola will have been encouraged by the poor defensive performance by Inter at the weekend, particularly the below-par form of keeper Julio Cesar. Impeccable a year ago, the Brazilian has been committing one mistake after another of late and, while his overall stature remains high, as of now Cesar is having a bit of a wobble.
In order to compensate the Special One may ring the changes with Francesco Toldo set to deputise in goal, but there is unlikely to be any respite for Inter’s backline with Maicon, Lucio, Cristain Chivu and Marco Materazzi set to play their third game in a row.
Further forward Inter will likely continue with their tried-and-trusted 4-3-3 formation, with Wesley Sneijder the main attacking fulcrum in midfield while Mario Balotelli, Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto’o cause problems in the final third.
Fiorentina have their fair share of headaches to contend with. Marco Marchionni and Juan Manuel Vargas are struggling with injuries and coach Cesare Prandelli might decide not to risk them, especially Vargas, who missed out on the weekend game against Inter. Gianluca Comotto is also doubt, while Adrian Mutu remains illegible due to his doping case.
On the plus side, Riccardo Montolivo looks well on his way to booking his place in South Africa after putting in another great performance against Inter last time out. The 25-year-old was the main player for Fiorentina on Saturday night, pulling the cliched strings from the midfield showing off his vision and ability to execute. Montolivo will be looking to tee up forwards Alberto Gilardino and Stevan Jovetic and lead them to the final.
Fiorentina know that reaching the Coppa Italia final will be a huge boost for them as qualification for the Europa League will be virtually guaranteed. However, one-nil down on aggregate, it won’t be easy to turn the tie in their favour.
Throw in a couple of conspiracy theories from the weekend – firstly that Fiorentina settled Saturday’s draw with Inter Milan in exchange for a pass through to the final, and secondly that members of Inter’s technical staff claimed to have seen Saturday’s linesman Nicola Ayroldi appearing to celebrate, clenching his fists and shouting “Let’s go! Let’s go!” after the end of their draw with Fiorentina – and all of a sudden the cup is very much alive in Italy.
101gg predicts: Fiorentina 2 – Inter Milan 1 (9.03)