Italiano’s Fiorentina real contenders for Champions League qualification

Date: 20th February 2022 at 3:13pm
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STADIO ARTEMIO FRANCHI (Florence) – If this season’s race to secure Champions League qualification via a top-four finish in Serie A is to go all the way to the final set of fixtures, then there’s little reason to suggest that Vincenzo Italiano‘s Fiorentina won’t be involved in the fight.

La Viola beat Atalanta 1-0 at the Franchi on Sunday afternoon to show, and not for the first time this season, that they have as good a chance as most of those in pursuit of European football at making a push for that fourth and final spot. Having already beaten Atalanta twice in Bergamo – in September in Serie A and earlier in February in the Coppa Italia – it’s clear that this team Italiano has assembled are a far cry from those who worked under Vincenzo Montella, Beppe Iachini, Cesare Prandelli, and others in Tuscany in recent seasons.

Making the jump to Fiorentina from Spezia after a successful first season in the top flight with the Aquilotti was never likely to be easy, but Italiano has taken everything in his stride and his transition has been seamless, as has that of the players to his 4-3-3.

The season started with a loss at Roma, and back-to-back home defeats as September rolled into October showed that there was still a bit of work to do, but those losses coming at the hands of title contenders Napoli and Inter made the bitter pill a little easier to swallow. Since October 3, Fiorentina have lost just once at home – coming in the form of a surprising 3-0 defeat to Lazio this month – and the Franchi is enjoying an atmosphere that it hasn’t seen for a number of years.

In 2019, 2020, and in 2021, things were veering in and out of toxicity in Florence. There was little to get excited about under Montella and Iachini, with it being hard to even understand what kind of team La Viola were.

But Italiano’s side know exactly what they are and what they do, and they don’t look all that much worse off despite losing Dusan Vlahovic to Juventus in January. On Sunday they were their aggressive best, got their hands dirty when necessary, and knew how to manage the game in a way that meant there wasn’t really much of a feeling that Atalanta – albeit strikerless – would find a way to trouble Bartlomiej Dragowski, though Ruslan Malinovskyi did have the ball in the net only for it to be ruled out for an offside call that the visitors will feel was unfair.

Igor was dominant at the back, and his partnership with Nikola Milenkovic looked – at least on Sunday – as good a central-defensive pairing as there is on show in Serie A at the moment.

Fiorentina are now just two points behind Atalanta and five off Juventus, with both La Viola and La Dea having a game in hand over the Old Lady. With a third of the season still to play, Italiano’s side could well be ready to mount a late push to fight until the end for a top-four finish.

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