AC MilanFiorentinaFiorentina

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AC Milan

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence

April 07 2013, 10 30 GMT

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On matchday 12 of the ongoing season, these two sides faced off and Fiorentina blitzed their way past a struggling Milan side. Tactical stability was lacking with Max Allegri at the helm; players such as Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antonio Nocerino were playing abysmal football; and Milan were languishing in 13th position.

On the other hand, Fiorentina were flying high after an exciting summer transfer window. With Vincenzo Montella having taken over as coach and talents like Borja Valero, Alberto Aquilani and Juan Cuadrado being brought in, Fiorentina were getting back on track to repeat their feats of the impressive Prandelli era.

Fast forward almost five months to today and things have panned out so differently from what people expected after Milan’s 1-3 home defeat to Fiorentina. Allegri has transmogrified the scenario at Milan, the club currently sitting comfortably in third place and looking good to overthrow Napoli from the second spot. Riccardo Montolivo, who makes his return to Florence this week, has been a revelation, and Mario Balotelli’s effects on both results and morale at the club need no explanation.

Montella and Fiorentina’s season hasn’t gone down as drastically as Milan’s has gone up, but La Viola have struggled to keep their feet on the accelerator all season long. A few months into the season, Fiorentina seemed set to give Juventus a push for the title but now sit in fourth place, six points behind Milan and just one ahead of trailing Inter and Lazio.

Not only will this game have huge repercussions in the battle for Champions League football, but it is also going to be an emotional night for Milan’s star midfielder Riccardo Montolivo. This will be the Italian international’s first return to the Artemio Franchi after having left the club following a wonderful seven year spell and even captaining Fiorentina for a season.

Teams News and Tactical Brief

Fiorentina

The biggest blow to Fiorentina comes in the form of an injury to Stevan Jovetic that has struck them once again. The injury-plagued Montenegrin is not going to be the only player unavailable to Montella as Gonzalo Rodriguez is suspended after having picked up his eighth yellow of the season.

Fiorentina will line up in their more recently used 4-3-3 formation, as the 3-5-2 seemed to be getting somewhat stale and yielded poorer results with each passing game. With Rodriguez out suspended, winter arrival Marvin Compper should slot in at center back alongside Stefan Savic. The full back roles will be filled by Manuel Pasqual on the left and Facundo Roncaglia on the right.

Forming one of the best midfield trios in the Serie A will be Valero, David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani. Pizarro will play the defensive role among the three and look to keep the marauding runs of Flamini and Muntari under control. Valero will be given license to roam forward while Aquilani will play a role very similar to that of Montolivo at Milan.

Fiorentina’s front three will be a lot less venomous with the absence of Jovetic, but disregarding the ability of Cuadrado and Adam Ljajic would be suicidal. The two attackers will play the wide roles in the attacking unit with the veteran Luca Toni playing through the middle. Given Milan’s susceptibility against aerial attacks and set pieces, the use of Toni might be a blessing in disguise for Fiorentina.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Viviano; Roncaglia, Savic, Compper, Pasqual; Aquilani, Pizarro, Valero; Cuadrado, Toni, Ljajic

Milan line up against Fiorentina

Milan

Unlike Fiorentina, Milan have no new injury or suspension worries. Christian Abbiati will start between the sticks, protected by a back four of Ignazio Abate, Cristian Zapata, Philippe Mexes and Mattia De Sciglio. With both Pasqual and Abate being highly attacking full backs, that flank could help decide the game. Delivery from Abate will be crucial, his usual wasteful crossing being possibly detrimental to Milan’s hopes.

Milan’s midfield three should consist of Mathieu Flamini and Sulley Muntari flanking Riccardo Montolivo. The former Fiorentina favorite will make an emotional return to his former club and will be hugely important as always. Building from deep, Montolivo might be given the time he likes with Fiorentina’s mirror image Pizarro staying in his own final third for most of the game.

Mario Balotelli will start as Milan’s center forward and should look to take advantage of the possible lack of understanding between Compper and Savic. Given his current form, Balotelli’s name on the scoresheet seems inevitable. Stephan El Shaarawy will keep his spot on the left flank and M’Baye Niang should start on the left given that Boateng is just a yellow away from suspension. Pasqual’s forward forays might give Niang that extra bit of space and his superior workrate to Ljajic should give Milan the upper hand on this decisive flank.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, Mexes, De Sciglio; Flamini, Montolivo, Muntari; Niang, Balotelli, El Shaarawy

Key Facts

  1. Milan are now unbeaten for 12 games in Serie A.
  2. Since the last meeting between these two sides in November, Milan have climbed up ten places in the league table.
  3. Fiorentina have scored at least one goal in each of their last six games.
  4. Montolivo won’t be the only player meeting his former side. Both Giampaolo Pazzini and Alberto Aquilani will face off against their respective former employers.
  5. The last time there was a direct red in a game between these teams was way back in 1995. Fiorentina’s Daniele Carnasciali was the culprit and Milan went on to win 2-0.

Player to watch out for

Riccardo Montolivo (Milan): Returning to his former club, Montolivo will be keen to have a strong impact and give the Artemio Franchi a showing they were so accustomed to. With Valero being the only Fiorentina midfielder pushing forward greatly, Montolivo will be given enough space to dictate the game. He has been the driving force for Milan this season and is going to be the key for Milan on Sunday.

Prediction

Fiorentina 1-1 Milan

Very little separates these sides on paper and nothing will separate them come Sunday. Both sides have their defensive frailties and attacking geniuses, thus surely resulting in a couple of goals. This result won’t hurt Milan as much as it will hurt Fiorentina given the narrow distance between themselves and the following pack.

Blast from the past