Fiorentina Club Focus: Assessing La Viola’s run-in
Just when it mattered most, the combination of attacking dynamism and defensive solidity that saw Fiorentina thrust amongst the frontrunners for a European berth earlier in the season returned to stunning effect against Lazio at the weekend.
A beautifully caressed finish from Stevan Jovetic and a sensational free kick from Adem Ljajic did the damage against the Biancocelesti, but it was the performance of the back line coupled with a heroic display from goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano that was perhaps most reassuring for coach Vincenzo Montella, as his side recorded a first clean sheet in five.
With Lazio leading the Viola in the Serie A standings by two points heading into the weekend, and with both clubs harbouring ambitions of a return to the Champions League, this was undoubtedly a season defining game, and a defiant Montella could not have been more thrilled with the outcome.
“We wanted it”, the former Roma idol told Sky Italia following the match. “We played with personality and maturity on a difficult pitch after four consecutive defeats away. It was a difficult test and we played very well. We were at times masters of the field.”
With Inter also falling to a surprise 1-0 home defeat to Bologna, Fiorentina leapt two places in the standings to reclaim fourth spot, their highest league placing since November. Crucially, the win over Lazio also represented the first time that the Viola have recorded back to back wins since play resumed following the winter break.
The chance to secure European football next season is firmly back on the agenda then, but as far as the race for a Champions League spot is concerned, the Viola are surely still outsiders, with Juventus disappearing into the distance, Napoli possessing a five point cushion, and AC Milan building a seemingly unstoppable momentum.
However, with one or two notable exceptions, Fiorentina’s run-in is incredibly forgiving and should see the side finish the season on a high. Next weekend sees the visit of a Genoa side whose recent resurgence has been derailed by two consecutive defeats, before a first ever trip to the barren environs of Cagliari’s controversial Stadio Is Arenas follows.
The first week of April witnesses a crucial encounter with AC Milan at the Artemio Franchi. The Rossoneri will no doubt be favourites, but given that they might be coming into that encounter off the back of Champions League quarter final – pending the outcome of Tuesday’s trip to Barcelona of course – fatigue may well prove to be the deciding factor.
A testing trip to Atalanta is followed by winnable games at home to Torino and away at Delio Rossi’s Sampdoria, before the chance to exact revenge on Roma for January’s Coppa Italia quarter final defeat presents itself.
The Viola will then close out the season with games against the sides currently occupying the bottom three; a Tuscan derby at Siena, a visit from Palermo and a trip to an increasingly hapless Pescara on the final day.
Of those ten fixtures, eight are against sides currently in the bottom half of the table, while two are home ties against sides directly vying for a place in Europe, with the Viola sure to draw confidence from their outstanding home record this season in both encounters.
It will be difficult, and no result can ever be taken for granted, but Jovetic believes Sunday’s win at the Stadio Olimpico can give the Viola the belief needed to go on and secure a Champions League berth, saying: “We have to think a [game] at a time, staying humble and focused, [but] I think we can win anywhere. If we were able to do it against [Lazio] with this personality and game quality, then we can be optimistic.”
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