The away victory against Napoli seems to have reignited Fiorentina’s charge for European qualification. At this stage, even the Champions League appears as a possibility, given the struggles of the five teams ahead of the club. The Gigliati are currently six points from fourth place Palermo with nine matches to play, which is plenty enough in terms of available points. The question is whether the club can go on a solid run and push for a strong finish.
Certainly the talent is there with the likes of Stevan Jovetic who has established himself as a difference maker for the club this season as well as the emergence of the latest youngster Khouma Babacar. The Senegalese Babacar scored the last goal in the 3-0 rout of Genoa but he has shown glimpses of what he can do in the previous match against Napoli. When the 17-year-old was called upon by Cesare Prandelli, during the match with the Partenopei, the youngster obliged with an energetic and bustling performance off the bench. Prandelli is carefully nurturing the Senegalese forward and at the same time the promising youngster is repaying the coach’s faith with positive contributions.
Against Genoa the only troubling feature was Alberto Gilardino’s insistence on taking the penalty kick instead of allowing Stevan Jovetic – the first choice taker as assigned by coach Prandelli. Fortunately the move did not backfire as the Azzurri striker Gilardino converted the spot-kick and, most important, Jovetic showed a great deal of maturity. The young Montenegrin did not overreact at the end ceding to the Italian the privilege of taking the penalty despite him being fouled inside the box. Jovetic has established himself as one of Fiorentina’s premier players who can change the direction of a match in a split-second with his defence-splitting passing or his scoring prowess. The Montenegro star will surely have a plethora of clubs clamouring for his services during the summer and European qualification will be crucial to keeping hold of the rising.
Another distinct feature emerging from the match’s proceedings was the fact Prandelli has restored a relatively known and trusted lineup by reverting to the players who were part of the club before the January transfer window. Prandelli is well aware of these players and their attributes, and he chose to stick with them as opposed to playing any of the January signings. Adem Ljajic, Keirrison, and Mario Bolatti were all on the bench with none of the three making an appearance during the match’s entirety. When changes needed to be made Prandelli opted for emerging youngster Babacar ahead of loan signing Keirrison, while Marco Donadel came off the bench and was preferred to Bolatti in midfield. It is now evident why Prandelli was sending out vibes during February about his desire to have more control and better coordination with the management when it comes to transfers, particularly of those joining la Viola. Prandelli is an astute tactician who is highly regarded across the peninsula, while transfer guru Pantaleo Corvino has also become an established name. However it does appear the January transfers might have created a slight wedge between the two influential figures in Florence.
The remaining schedule in the league might not be extremely kind to la Viola with clashes against both of the Milan’s teams looming ahead. The Gigliati must host Inter and travel to the San Siro to take on Milan during the last nine matches. Despite these two difficult clashes, which might very well sway the destination of the league title to either Milan side depending on the results against la Viola, Fiorentina will have a relatively comfortable fixture list. Prandelli’s charges ought to win at least six out of those nine games and then the onus will be on the teams ahead to drop points allowing the Gigliati to power their way to Europe.
The repercussions of failing to qualify to one of the two European competitions will be grave, as the likes of Jovetic and Juan Manuel Vargas, will be tempted to move to Elite clubs across Europe despite their stated intention of remaining in Florence. Vargas in particular might be tougher to keep a hold off with Real Madrid and now the league leading Nerazzurri suspected of wanting to table firm offers to secure the marauding Peruvian’s signature. Prandelli is well aware of these possibilities and he has evidently issued a rallying call by insisting Europe is within striking distance if the players pull together and work hard till the end of the season. Failure to make Europe could even see the charismatic Prandelli managing a different outfit next season.