Fiorentina host Roma this weekend at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, looking to bounce back after their 2-1 defeat away to Napoli last weekend. The Viola will be looking to maintain their position as Serie A leaders however, the second-placed Giallorossi know that victory will propel them into the top spot.
The fixture sees Mohamed Salah’s first visit to the Franchi following his controversial transfer to Roma in the summer and he is sure to receive a warm welcome from the Viola tifosi in the Curva Fiesole. The Egyptian’s transfer is still a source of acrimony between the two clubs. Fiorentina allege that Salah should be punished for allegedly reneging on an agreement with them, by joining Roma in the summer. They allege that Salah failed to attend pre-season training despite having an agreement to play for them this season, and that the veto that existed within his contract, only allowed him to return to parent club, Chelsea, and not join any other club on loan. Despite the ongoing dispute, Salah has shown no indication of it impacting on his performances, and has been in excellent form this season.
On the opposite side, Viola centre-half, Davide Astori, faces the team for whom he had successful loan spell during the 2014-15 season. He was one of Roma’s best defenders last season and a steady performer during their second-placed finish. Astori has proved to be an excellent acquisition for the Viola, and is currently on loan from Cagliari with an option to buy at the conclusion of the season. Roma’s defensive record this season has been poor; they have conceded 18 goals in 11 Serie A and Champions League games; so it is something of a surprise that they didn’t retain Astori’s services for the current campaign. Fiorentina’s top goalscorer, Nikola Kalinic, will look to take advantage of the Giallorossi’s poor defensive record and add to his 5 goals this season.
Fiorentina boast the best home record in Serie A this season, having won all four of their home games. That contrasts with their poor Europa League form, where they have lost both home games to Basle and Lech Poznan respectively. The 2-1 defeat against Lech on Thursday night was a huge setback, and Viola coach, Paulo Sousa will be hoping that successive defeats have not impacted on the confidence that was evident in the squad before the recent international break. This fixture has proved to be something of a difficulty for Fiorentina, who have failed to win any of their last five home games against Roma, and have not won in the league against Roma since April 2012.
The key battle in the match will likely surround who can control the midfield area. The Viola trio of Borja Valero, Milan Badelj and Matias Vecino will face their stiffest test of the season from Roma’s midfield three of Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan. It is likely that Salah will tuck into the midfield to assist his team mates and, with the midfield area likely to be crowded, one suspects that if either team are to emerge successful, then the performances of their respective wide players will be crucial.
One would expect that the Roma trio will look to surround Valero, seeking to limit the time and space that the excellent Spaniard has enjoyed in many games this season. If they manage to achieve that, this will go some way to disrupting Fiorentina’s tempo and possession based game which has been key to their league performances so far this season. Fiorentina will need to be conscious of the goal-scoring threat that the Roma midfield poses, given Salah and Pjanic are the joint top scorers for the Giallorossi in the league this season with four goals apiece.
Fiorentina will welcome back Gonzalo Rodriguez who missed the Lech game through suspension following his dismissal against FC Basel, whilst Marcos Alonso is likely to be fit despite missing the Lech game due to having picked up a slight left thigh strain in Sunday’s game at Napoli. The Brazilian, Gilberto, only returned to training on Friday from the injury that saw him substituted 15 minutes into the Viola’s 4-1 victory over Inter at the end of September, and will not likely be risked in this fixture.
Roma’s team is likely to be unchanged from their midweek 4-4 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. The only conundrum facing Giallorossi coach, Rudi Garcia, is whether Edin Dzeko makes the starting line-up in place of Gervinho, following the former’s return from injury and his brief substitute appearance during the draw away to Leverkusen.
Notable quotes from the coaches:
Paulo Sousa – Fiorentina
“It is normal for a player to be jeered when he faces his old club, but often indifference is a far stronger message than jeers. Our fans should use their energy to cheer us on, although they will make their own decisions and express themselves as they see fit.”
“A victory is worth double, seeing as we are ahead of Roma in the standings. We have a few issues at the moment, but we can compete with anyone. (Roma) have invested in a squad over the summer that allows them to have a chance to win the scudetto.”
Rudi Garcia – Roma
“Fiorentina is doing well, they have a certain way of playing, an identity, and this is thanks to their coach. I don’t know him personally, it will be nice to face him.”
“We need to always think of scoring even when we’re leading, and press the opponent wihtout risking too much at the back. My team approaches each game the same way, we got two results beating Juventus and drawing Barcelona. It will be a great match (vs Fiorentina) the kind of match all the players would want to be in.”