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Fiorentina vs Lazio
Match Date: 19-10-2014
Location: Florence
Stadium Artemio Franchi
Referee Peruzzo
Time 12:30 CET

Lazio will travel to the Stadio Artemio Franchi to take on a Fiorentina side on Sunday morning in an encounter that has been billed as a European six-pointer. Both sides currently lie inside the Top 10, but are shy of the Europa League placings, therefore this is game neither side can afford to lose. A 'six-pointer' implies that the points could be double their value come the end of the season, but even more important than acquiring three points is preventing a direct rival from gathering momentum at this early stage of the season.

Although Lazio have less points on the board than one might expect, Stefano Pioli must be quite satisfied at the moment. He has proven his worth having adapted his philosophy in order to guarantee results, with back-to-back wins against Palermo and Sassuolo being the reward for the hard work he has put in since joining the club. On top of that, he almost has a full squad at his disposal; Santiago Gentiletti’s tragedy has been well-documented, Lorik Cana has a suspension to serve and Danilo Cataldi has yet to fully recover, but literally everyone else should be available.

The man in the opposite dugout, Vincenzo Montella must have been delighted to see Fiorentina pummel Inter a couple of weeks ago, but he knows in his heart of hearts that the international break came at exactly the wrong time. Injuries to Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez put Fiorentina on the backfoot, but Borja Valero’s complete loss of form and Juan Cuadrado’s transfer saga hangover had the Viola on the ropes. Then, prodigious talent Khouma Babacar found his shooting boots and Fiorentina suddenly looked like they were contenders for a Champions League spot again.

Clubs like Fiorentina and Lazio have to gamble with high-risk transfers in order to make up ground on the major players, and there is no doubt that of late, Fiorentina have done a better job. Yet, you sense the tide may be turning right about now and Montella is now in unfamiliar waters. He has to prove that their success is as much down to him as smart business. They’ve got the style; they need to show they have the substance.

Montella will also be aware of the fact that, despite Fiorentina’s resurgence under his leadership, Lazio have a very decent record against the Tuscan side in recent years. Many will remember Lorik Cana’s winner in this fixture last year, and while you could argue that Lazio are a very different prospect now, Fiorentina faced two very different Lazio teams last season and failed to score against either. Our players will go into this game knowing that they are more than capable of withstanding the threat posed by Montella’s possession football.

Reja masterminded the 1-0 win in Florence earlier this year, countering Montella with a defensive 4-3-3. Pioli will have got that one out on DVD during the week and he’ll be contemplating a switch back to the 4-3-3 that brought great football but poor results. I believe Lucas Biglia is central to the manager’s tactics, and the Argentine’s absence from international football will have given Pioli to weeks to work on defining the World Cup runner-up’s role. As Ogenyi Onazi is likely to be the last international to return to Rome, the manager will most likely flank Biglia with Senad Lulic and Marco Parolo. This weekend, however, we have options.

There has been plenty of talk in the media about Keita Balde Diao becoming a mammoth ache in the backside and Stefan Radu switching to a centre-back role. Let’s try and straighten the speculation out – if Keita has been problematic, the club would either have sold him of Pioli would have dropped him. As for Radu, he spent two months before the season working with Pioli. Not once did our manager try him at centre-back. Therefore, expect Michael Ciani to start his first game of the season alongside Stefan De Vrij, with Dusan Basta and Stefan Radu on the wings. There is a chance Basta is not yet 100% as the Lazio team doctor suggest a fortnight ago that he would not make Fiorentina, but the Lazio team doctor has since indicated otherwise. Edson Braafheid is not 100%, which perhaps spares Pioli from a difficult decision. Putting Federico Marchetti between the posts is a difficult decision our manager has already made.

In attack, Filip Djordjevic and Antonio Candreva should start providing they return from international duty without any significant levels of fatigue, while the remaining spot will go to one of Stefano Mauri, Felipe Anderson or Keita Balde Diao. Based on performances so far this season, you’d fancy our captain will get the start but Fiorentina are a side that often throw caution to the wind, and Pioli may be tempted to field Felipe Anderson or Keita due to their counter-attacking capabilities.

This is a fascinating encounter on paper, but the reality of recent years is that this particular fixture just does not live up to the hype. I can see that changing though as neither side can afford to lose, and yet both teams will have the will to attack from the off. 

Something else worth mentioning is the confidence both sides exhibit when in a commanding position. If Fiorentina take the lead, rarely does the opposition get back into the game and the same can be said of Lazio this season. Once we got on the scoreboard against both Cesena and Palermo, adding to our tally was easy and despite making our own lives difficult against Sassuolo, we earned the three points the hard way with 10 men for almost half the game. It is vital we score first, especially as Fiorentina have only lost once this season and that was at the Stadio Olimpico to our bitter rivals.

Now, to end this preview with an important message – this may be a big game, but kick-off is at 12.30 CET. North, Central and South Americans should get the alarm clocks set, everyone in the Far East, Australia and surrounding islands, make sure you knock off your alarms for once. Last thing you want is to miss the game, be woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of ‘Vola Lazio Vola’ blaring from your phone, and to rub your eyes open for nothing more than the LazioLand match report. I mean, it’ll be there if you need it and we hope it fulfils its purpose, but we don’t want you head-to-toe in Lazio merchandise just for that.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Predicted line-up:

(4-3-3) Marchetti; Basta, De Vrij, Ciani, Radu; Parolo, Biglia, Lulic; Candreva, Djordjevic, Mauri.

Writer: C
Team Name Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Fiorentina vs Lazio
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  Players To Watch
Fiorentina / Khouma Babacar
In the absence of Rossi and Gomez, the responsibility to put the ball in the back of the net lies with the Senegalese forward. Regarded as a potential star for years, he is starting to shine.
Lazio / Filip Djordjevic
A hat-trick against Palermo was followed-up by his first goal at the Stadio Olimpico against Sassuolo. He has quite the reputation already, but has yet to show anything in a game that truly matters. This is a great opportunity.
  Referee Statistics
Fiorentina vs Lazio
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