Fiorentina’s opening match in the Champions League turned sour following Alberto Gilardino’s sending off against Lyon. The Italy striker was red carded just before half-time for an alleged elbow with the score tied between the two teams. His sending off certainly influenced the rest of the encounter and the French club ended up winning by the narrowest of margins.
Prior to the red card, Fiorentina was managing to hold Lyon scoreless and had harbored ambitions of going back to Florence with at least a point from a tough away game. The point would have been quite crucial considering the group also includes English powerhouse Liverpool. Gilardino’s loss will be felt in the next round of European matches due to the lack of alternatives up-front. It is quite possible that he gets suspended for multiple games and Coach Cesare Prandelli is left with Romanian Adrian Mutu and Montenegro’s Stevan Jovetic together in attack against Liverpool.
Prandelli fielded the same line-up against Cagliari with the exception of three changes. He started the experienced Mutu instead of the emerging Jovetic in attack while Cristiano Zanetti’s suspension meant he was forced to play Marco Donadel. The third change was having Massimo Gobbi start for Manuel Pasqual. Both teams were concluding a dull first-half when the last two minutes ushered some interesting moments. A Lyon goal was chalked off for an infringement and Alberto received his marching orders for elbowing French international Jeremy Toulalan. The reckless challenge left la Viola with 10 men to take on Lyon in a hostile environment. Eventually Lyon was able to take advantage of its numerical superiority to break the deadlock in the last quarter of an hour.
Fiorentina will host Liverpool in two weeks without its main striker and already three points behind the Merseyside team and the French outfit. This will be a crucial game for la Viola’s aspirations in the Champions League since anything but a win will most likely signal the end of the Tuscan club’s chances of making it to the next stage. Coach Prandelli must be extremely disappointed and will obviously realise the club’s window of opportunity will diminish unless the Reds are beaten. The crafty Tactician knows that his squad cannot sulk because the fixtures are beginning to pile up and the away game against Roma is scheduled for this Sunday. The match versus the Giallorossi will be critical in defining la Viola’s domestic season. Another loss will confirm the team’s struggles away from Stadio Artemio Franchi. The alarming factor will be whether this gradually builds into a trend as the season continues. Fiorentina’s ambitions will be under serious peril with the Champions League adventure ending at the group stage and the club likely failing to finish in the top four in Italy unless it wins the majority of its home games and maintains decent form away from home.
Coach Prandelli is well-respected and was one of the rumoured candidates for the Juventus job following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, so expectations will be high amongst la Viola fans for a quick recovery from the Champions League loss. Once again, the main issue for Prandelli is to achieve victory against Roma in order to boost the team’s morale and to create momentum heading into the Liverpool game. The players must realise they have three league games sandwiched between the Lyon loss and the anticipated encounter with Liverpool. Of those domestic matches, two will be played away and more significantly two of the three games are against Roma and Sampdoria. Both of those clubs are considered as legitimate contenders for European spots (not necessarily the Champions League but Europa League too) so it is quite important for Fiorentina to get as many points as possible out of these encounters.
While Adrian Mutu’s problems off the field are now well documented, the likes of Riccardo Montolivo must pick up their game and put in more committed displays for la Viola to be reckoned with. Last week the Coach was calling for defensive cover and it will not be shocking if Prandelli now thinks the midfield and attack will require reinforcements. The team lacks the depth to match its ambition. Cristiano Zanetti was sorely missed in midfield while Mutu is unlikely to hit stride before he gets over niggling injuries and of course the distraction from his Chelsea debacle. One player who has been solid so far is goalkeeper Sebastien Frey whose saves have spared the Coach some embarrassment.
Fiorentina Club Focus
Viola continue to grind out results – September 15, 2009
La Viola lose Gilardino and the points – September 18, 2009