Fiorentina v Liverpool, Champions League, September 29, 2009
Having seen off Hungarian minnows Debrecen in the last round, Rafa Benitezâ€™s side head to the Stadio Artemio Franchi knowing a win in Italy will put a six point gap between them and their hosts.
The Viola qualified for the Champions League group stages on away goals in a two-legged tie against Sporting Lisbon and despite the loss to Lyon in the first group game have begun the new Serie A season in decent form.
Their 1-0 win over Livorno on Saturday was their fourth victory in six games and it was fitting that their goal scorer was Stevan Jovetic (pictured) who has been their main man this season. The playmaker from Montenegro is maturing into one of the finest attacking players in Europe and will likely be the man Liverpool have to stop.
Fiorentina will be reliant on Jovetic and former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu more than ever as serial goal scorer Gilardino will miss the match due to a two-game ban handed out to the Italian striker for an elbow on Jeremy Toulalan in Matchday 1. (Fiorentina are 14/1 to win both halves.)
Much of the pre-match prattle will concentrate on Mutu with the Romanian striker still struggling to cope with the fact that he has to pay over 15 million pounds to Chelsea for what some wags have claimed to be the â€œmost expensive line of coke ever.â€
It will come as no surprise that the 30-year-old striker has struggled somewhat this season, scoring just one goal so far. Mutu has admitted that the fine is troubling him off the field: “Away from the pitch I’m not OK, how could I be? That fine is a very particular thing which affects me on a very personal level. I think I have amply paid for an error of youth which is light years away from the man and footballer I am now.”
So, how he reacts on Tuesday night against an English team remains somewhat open to question. Over the years though Mutu has reserved some of his best performances for the big occasion and he could be relishing the opportunity.
Elsewhere the home side will be hoping goalkeeper Sebastien Frey is on top form as the eccentric French keeper has during his career produced some incredible saves. Former Juventus midfielder Cristiano Zanetti will also be hoping to roll back the clock with a dominant performance against Mascherano and Lucas. (Fiorentina are 11/4 to keep a clean sheet.)
Following their 6-1 win over Hull (Liverpool are 100/1 win 6-1 again), confidence should be high in the Liverpool dressing room and over the years Rafa Benitez has perfected a narrow win in tough away Champions League fixtures such as this one.
Fernando Torres with five goals in his last two games is on fire but with El Nino leading the line it could be one of the deep lying attackers such as Steven Gerrard or Dirk Kuyt that could get the crucial goals. (Liverpool are 2/1 to score in both halves.)
Liverpoolâ€™s defence has looked shaky this season and Fiorentine will come out with all guns blazing and the movement of Mutu and Jovetic could be difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, Rafa Benitezâ€™s team are better suited for this match than the home game with Debrecen and will likely show their class in the Champions League once again.
101gg predicts: Fiorentina 1 â€“ Liverpool 2 (7/1)
Full match odds here.