Fiorentina Club Focus: 11 days of fire
In an ideal world he would calmly sip on a Lavazza gold espresso while trying to resolve the club’s recent issues, the biggest of which revolves around their inability to get their strikers in position to score.
However, as we all know, the world can be less than ideal and with a match against Juventus on the horizon there is little time for the 39-year-old tactician to dwell on the past.
Montella, along with the entire city of Florence, have completely shifted their attention from last weekend’s disappointing defeat onto Sunday’s big encounter at the Juventus Stadium.
It will be the first of three encounters between the two bitter rivals over the course of the next 11 days. Sunday’s Serie A matchup will be supplemented by a round of 16 Europa League tie that will likely stir up bitter memories from their 1990 UEFA Cup final (which was ultimately won 3-1 on aggregate by the Bianconeri).
It would be unfair to label the next two weeks as “must win”, as the Viola will likely still be in the running for that all important final Champions League spot regardless of Sunday’s outcome.
With the Viola having already secured their spot in the final of the Coppa Italia, a round of 16 elimination in Europe’s second club competition would be tolerated given the transformation that has taken place at the club since 2012.
However, that isn’t to say it wouldn’t sting given the opposition. Given the scenes of celebration that engulfed the Stadio Artemio Franchi after the Viola’s now infamous 4-2 victory over Juventus back in October it’s clear that whenever these two rivals square off there is more than just a result on the line.
While the Europa League tie will be a matchup in and of itself, Sunday’s match in Turin has its own narrative that is captivating nonetheless. With Borja Valero out due to suspension, the Viola will have to head into one of their biggest matches of the year without arguably their most important player.
The Spaniards absence cannot be overstated. Up until his controversial sending off against Parma and his subsequent four match ban the 29-year-old was playing like a possible Serie A Player of the Year candidate.
Despite strong play from the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani and the now injured Giuseppe Rossi, it’s the Spaniard who has orchestrated and directed the Viola from the middle of the park and into the a possible Champions League spot.
As has been the case so many times this season, rather than sit about and cry about the cruelty of the game, the Gigliati will be looking to others to step up in his absence and lead them to victory in what will no doubt be an action packed 90 minutes.
One name to look out for is that of Aquilani, who has once again reverted to the form that has made him one of Italy’s greatest enigmas over the past decade.
The 29-year-old had a torrid time against Lazio last Sunday, producing a flat performance in what has been a season filled with significantly more high’s than low’s.
Aquilani had the most touches for the Viola during the encounter, highlighting the squad’s reliance on him to create.
However with a pass completion percentage of only 75, along with no key passes (in comparison to Mati Fernandez and his six) it’s clear for all to see that the former Roma man must do more if the Viola are to have any chance in knocking off their hated rivals for the second time this season.
If Aquilani is unable to lend a helping hand things could be gloomy, especially since Juve are able to matchup with what is arguably the best midfield in the country.
Whatever the case may be the intensity in Sunday’s match could be an indication of what the next two weeks will have in store for both sides.
And who’s to say that a surprise start from Mario Gomez wouldn’t be the jolt the Viola need in order to pull off another feat against the rivals from Turin…
Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44