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A week without Davide: Fiorentina returns to the field a week after his death

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Fiorentina are set to host last place Benevento at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Sunday, a week after their 31-year old captain was found dead in his hotel bedroom.

It’s been a never-ending nightmare for the Viola this week. Davide Astori was the beacon of hope, the captain, the role model, the friend, the glue that held Fiorentina together. His death is absolutely devastating for the club and for Italian football as a whole.

But on Sunday, the embattled club will look to honor him in the best way they can – with a win.

Fiorentina are in trouble of missing out on European football for a second consecutive season, and unfortunately an uphill climb is turning quickly into mission impossible as they are in 10th place in the league. Their on the field woes have only been tremendously compounded this past week. Many wonder how they will bounce back and who will lead them to the end of the season.

Real men will have to lead and take the lead. Milan Badelj seems like the only suitable leader the club has given his tenure in Florence. But another issue is his contract expires at the end of the season, perhaps now things will be different.

On Saturday’s pre-match conference, head coach Stefano Pioli took the stand with a letter he wrote and took no questions from the media.

“The first thought goes to Davide, who I was fortunate enough to know over the last few months. He was special as both a person and a captain,” Pioli began.

“He always found the right way and time to say things. He was generous, positive, altruistic. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend much time with him and I’ll miss him. I miss him every day I step on to that training ground. Our thoughts are with his family. I just don’t know what to say to [girlfriend] Francesca and [daughter] Vittoria, other than we will always be there for them.”

“We thank the whole football world, because such participation and solidarity is certainly down to Davide, but also means that there are still principles and values in a world that at times is described differently. Our club owners again showed their sensitivity and did everything possible to help the team.

“We are crying and suffering, because Davide was our role model, but we know what to do in order to honor his memory.

“I usually like to motivate players by telling them: ‘Try to train and play as if it was the last time.’ I never needed to say that to Davide.

“He has left us so many values, that seed of passion, professionalism and sensitivity. Now it’s up to us to look after it and help that seed grow. All united, in memory of Davide.”

On the field, Vitor Hugo is projected to start as German Pezzella’s partner in defense. Vincent Laurini and Cristiano Biraghi will be on their flanks.

Projected Starting XI (4-3-3); Sportiello; Laurini, Pezzella, Vitor Hugo, Biraghi; Benassi, Badelj, Veretout; Chiesa, Simeone, Thereau.

Italian football expert and Chief-Editor of Italian Football Daily. Follow me on Twitter at @AlexMascitti

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