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Fiorentina-Milan Preview: Viola Concerto

The opening match for Milan fans this season my be one of the most anticipated in a few years given the amazing transformation in the squad over the summer. But it is also highly anticipated because after a summer that Fiorentina seemed a little off key and unsure of themselves in the mercato, they really pulled it together and put in some impressive performances in their summer friendlies to defeat Benfica on penalties, then beat both Barca and Chelsea in regulation during the ICC tournament. Add to that the fact that we will be going to their house, and this first match looks positively treacherous. Can Milan spoil the Viola concerto?

Can the well-traveled tactician conduct a stunning performance?

Both teams have new managers this season, with Fiorentina being conducted by Paulo Sousa. Sousa actually played in Portugal, Italy, Germany, Greece, and Spain as a player, but Fiorentina fans would remember most his time at Juventus. However, I think they have gotten past their initial horror at his appointment by now. As a coach, he is also well travelled, coaching in Portugal, England, Hungary, Israel, Switzerland, and now in Italy. But will his varied experiences help him to create beautiful music at a club so many managers struggle at? Or will Fiorentina be just another stamp in his passport?

After dispatching Barca at home and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, more recently Fiorentina played the lower Greek side Iraklis last Saturday. For this one, Sousa lined up: Sepe; Tomovic, Hegazi, Bagadur, Pasqual; Suarez, Vecino; Giberto, Mati Fernandez, Ilicic; Kalinic. While they managed a 2-1 win in this one, it was played just a day after they had faced Lega Pro side Lucchese, so it was played by the players who didn’t play on Friday. Their team that beat Lucchese 3-0 on Friday was Tatarusanu; Roncaglia, Gonzalo, Astori, Alonso; Badelj, Borja Valero; Joaquin, Rossi, Rebic; Babacar.

Will the new transfer from Dnipro test Milan's young defense?

It is of note that the Croatian striker Kalinic had only just signed for Fiorentina from Dnipro before playing on Saturday, and will likely wreak havoc on defenses this season. Also of note, Giuseppe Rossi played a full 90 minutes vs. Lucchese and did not break, so be warned – I’m pretty sure he’s got a lot of goals pent up just waiting to punish opponents. Speaking of punishments, Roncaglia will apparently be suspended for this match, and Bakic is on the injured list. Lastly, I wonder if you have a player called Milan Badelj on your team, and you are facing a team called Milan, isn’t there an obligatory own goal there?

Milan also have a new coach, who was more familiar to Fiorentina fans than Milan fans upon his arrival after having coached the Viola for a season. Milan fans also expressed concerns about him being ex-Interista, but he seemed to calm those fears immediately at his presentation. Unlike Sousa, Mihajlovic’ coaching experience is almost exclusively in Serie A, with a brief stint as the coach of the Serbian national team. And like his coaching career, he has steadily improved and guided this Milan squad this summer to prepare them well for the season ahead.

"Montolivo, you may want to bring your camera, because I don't line up players for nostalgia's sake"

But being well prepared and being able to win are not the same thing. This match will truly be a challenge. Fiorentina finished fourth last season with Montella, and although they made a number of changes, they certainly have home advantage at least. This Milan side are almost entirely different than the one who fell to tenth last season. Although many of the names on the roster are the same, most appear quite changed with the new coach and new system. Unfortunately, Mihajlovic will be without Niang and Menez to injuries, but Calabria and Zapata both returned to training this week, so should be available.

Will Fiorentina make sweet music and break the hearts of Milan fans on opening day? Or will Milan interrupt their performance with a spectacular performance of their own? While I would love the latter, I think the truth may be somewhere in between. In a summer of so many changes for both teams, I expect both teams to be a little shaky but to come out strong and give a passionate performance. With a lot of luck and the collective sweat and blood of Milan this summer, maybe, just maybe, Milan will close the curtains on the Viola concerto.

This post inspired by the music of Carl Friedrich Zelter’s “Viola Concerto in E-flat major”

Serie A Week 1
Fiorentina vs. Milan
Sunday, August 23 • 20:45 CEST (2:45 EDT)
This match will be shown LIVE on RAI in the U.S.