With just two rounds of the Serie A season left to play, Fiorentina still have an outside chance of overhauling AC Milan to claim the third and final Champions League berth thanks to a 1-0 derby win over Siena in midweek.
However, a last gasp defeat to Roma by the same scoreline on Saturday means that next season’s Europa League is the Viola’s likeliest destination, and will be guaranteed should the side claim at least one victory from their final two games against Palermo and Pescara.
With the exception of Gonzalo Rodriguez’s chested winner against Siena, the most notable aspect of those two most recent fixtures was the Viola’s inability to find the back of the net despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession on each occasion.
Against Roma in particular, Vincenzo Montella’s side enjoyed almost two thirds of the possession, but with the Giallorossi largely setting up camp in and around their penalty area, the Viola found it difficult to carve out too many meaningful chances.
Both Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic at times appeared far from their usual, dynamic selves, while the precise shooting frequently displayed by Juan Cuadrado throughout this season deserted him when the Viola needed it most.
The frustrating aspect of this sudden profligacy was that the Viola came into the Roma encounter on the back of a stunning run of goal scoring form, having found the net 11 times in their previous four matches.
However, the Giallorossi appear to have figured out that if you hold a tight defensive line on the edge of the area whilst forcing both Jovetic and Ljajic into the channels, the Viola will then be limited to long range efforts from midfield that are relatively simple to nullify.
There can be no doubt that Roma enjoyed a spot of luck at times, but in addition to January’s Coppa Italia victory, the side from the capital have kept a free-scoring Fiorentina at bay twice this season, and that can be no accident.
Similar problems presented themselves against Siena on Wednesday, with Luca Toni spurning the side’s best chance to kill off their near neighbour’s resistance late in the second half, and it almost proved costly as an injury time effort from Siena’s Alessandro Rosina sailed just wide.
To criticise Fiorentina’s efforts in front of goal at this stage of the season is perhaps a little churlish given the side’s total of 66 league goals has far exceeded the 37 plundered during the previous campaign, while a greater diplomacy of effort means the over reliance on Jovetic has become a thing of the past.
However, had the side’s ruthlessness in front of goal not deserted them at crucial stages during the second half of the season, resulting in disappointing defeat at the hands of Pescara, Bologna, Cagliari and of course Roma, the likelihood is that Montella’s side would surely have secured Champions League football with time to spare.
The signing of Giuseppe Rossi could yet prove to be a masterstroke on the part of sporting director Daniele Prade, but considering it was known that the Azzurri international would be unlikely to feature during the current campaign, it begs the question of whether or not the €10million fee could have been better spent elsewhere, and could have proven the difference between a Champions League berth and a place in the Europa League.
Nevertheless, Fiorentina head into the penultimate weekend of the campaign of the season knowing that a return to Europe is all but secured, and that is a fact that can only be celebrated in light of the relegation battle the side were facing just one year ago.
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