Week 12 proved to be a disappointing one for both Fiorentina and Udinese as both sides crashed to surprise defeats. Fiorentina suffered a one-goal reverse at lowly Cagliari with a soft penalty ultimately being their downfall, but few would’ve argued with the result as the Viola failed to trouble the Sardinian’s goalkeeper throughout the match. Despite the Isolani’s precarious league position, their recent home form has been good and Robert Acquafresca’s penalty made it 10 points from their last four games at the Stadio Sant’Elia. However, if Claudio Prandelli’s men wish to recreate the glory of last season’s fourth place finish, they will need to win games like these.
Udinese can have no such excuse. The Friuliani were unbeaten at the Stadio Friuli this campaign but succumbed to rock-bottom Reggina thanks to a superb Franco Brienza volley. The defeat was made to look even worse thanks to the Amaranto’s wretched recent away form – six successive away defeats and just one goal scored prior to last weekend’s game.
With the two sides drawing a blank at the weekend, they will both be hoping to welcome back their respective chief creative forces after injuries. Adrian Mutu was missing at the weekend for Fiorentina and invariably when he doesn’t play, the Viola lacks that cutting edge when going forward. To add to that, Mutu’s a member of the select few who have scored for the Florence outfit this term. In fact, just Mutu and four others have found the back of the net in the league so far, and only the Romanian and the league’s second top goal-scorer, Alberto Gilardino, have more than the single goal to their name.
Meanwhile, Udinese’s goal spread looks far more healthy, although like the Gigliati, when missing the inventive influence of a creative frontman – in their case Antonio Di Natale – the threat from the Zebrette dwindles. Whether we see these two especially significant players on Sunday will be a major factor on the eventual outcome.
But as long as the Viola boast the in-form Gilardino in their ranks, they will always fancy nicking that vital goal. And with both sides possessing a defensive record only bettered by the top three, coincided with respective bruised egos following last weeks shock reverses, a tight, low scoring affair would seem likely.
Fiorentina’s home record makes for good reading – it’s the shaky away form that has seen them slip down the table. They go into Saturday’s match unbeaten at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, dropping points only to Scudetto hopefuls Inter and Juventus and it is this excellent record they need to maintain, especially against sides with similar European ambitions to their own.
Meanwhile, The Friulani’s away pattern will give the Gigliati plenty of clues as to what to expect for their visit. A side whose counter-attacking style suits playing away from home, they’ve picked up a healthy run of results on the road, only suffering marginal defeats to front-runners, the Nerazzurri and the Old Lady. The two livewire forwards Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella will no doubt carry a major threat, as the Zebrette will be desperate to build on a good start to season, in which they sit an altogether respectable sixth. Last weekend’s defeat aside, results have been consistent, and although their early season position is unspectacular, it will make positive reading for most associated with the club.
On the other hand, Fiorentina sit an unwelcome ninth and despite being just a point behind this weekend’s visitors, they can’t afford to lose any more ground on fourth-place surprise package, Napoli. It was always going to be a bigger ask repeating last campaign’s league performance, especially with Milan a much stronger side than last term and teams like Lazio adding quality to their squad. But the Gigliati spent money as well and have improved in many areas, and with it comes expectations. Every team wants to improve each year, but for Fiorentina, that was always going to prove difficult this season.
But as the visit of Udinese approaches, all at the club will know the importance of overcoming their rivals in the quest for fourth spot. And with last week’s disappointment still at the foremost in their minds, both sides will be out to prove their bounce-back-ability.