This match will be a proper test for both teams. Milan are still searching for some consistent results, despite having developed some grit and teamwork of late. Fiorentina are looking to return to consistency, especially after being beaten 3-1 by Lazio last week at home and being stunned by Carpi to be knocked out of the Coppa Italia in December. While they sit four places on the table and nine points above Milan, they are obviously prone to hiccups. Milan, on the other hand, are still searching for their identity and struggling to keep Mihajlovic from being axed by a foolhardy president who can’t see the forest for the trees. So it will be interesting to see which team will be stepping up.
|"Memo to self: do not concede the penalty this time"|
Fiorentina were a revelation at the beginning of the season, having topped the table at least a couple of different times. I even heard the S-word uttered in the same sentence as Fiorentina, sometimes even from their own fans. The same fans who came out to support their team in the range of 7,500-10,000 for their first training session in January. That’s right, there are still clubs who have fans that actually support their team. What must that be like? However a few hiccups have seem them slip three points behind current league leaders Napoli. Most years, that would merely see them in second, but it’s a tight race this year, and the team from Florence currently sit in a Europa League spot instead.
Their Portuguese manager Paulo Sousa wasn’t rated that highly by a lot of people coming into this season, and moreover was resented by Fiore fans initially due to his playing spells at Inter and especially at Juventus. However he helped Viola fans forget Montella very quickly and has definitely earned respect as well as results. Well except last week, when they hosted Lazio, that was not pretty. For that fateful match, he started: Tatarusanu; Rodriguez, Astori, Roncaglia; Badelj, Vecino, Blaszczykowski, Alonso; Kalinic, Fernandez, and Valero. He will be missing Gonzalo Rodriguez due to card accumulation, and also midfielder Bakic due to injury.
|Beware of this guy, he's proving to be a lethal weapon|
If you’ll remember when we started our season away to Fiorentina, we played 60 minutes on ten men and lost 2-0. So this time we have home advantage, right? Well it’s hard to know. Whereas Fiorentina had up to 10,000 fans at a training session, Milan could barely manage 11,000-12,000 at a Coppa Italia Quarterfinal match. Additionally, with all of the ill-timed boycotts, entitlement, and horrific abuse by Milan fans in the last couple of years, it’s no wonder that Milan have often done better away than at home this season.
Mihajlovic, in facing one of his ex-clubs he managed, will be missing Ely, Lopez, and probably Menez to injury still, although Balotelli may see some time in this match upon returning from his lengthy injury. Mihajlovic has done well to try to rotate some players with so many games in quick succession, so we will see who he deems fit to start for this one. Despite good results in his last two matches, the rumor mill keeps swirling around his job. If it’s true, then it’s clearly not performance based, he has just been a place holder all along. It it’s not true, then people need to find a new hobby other than listening to rumors like gossiping teenage girls. Either way, a positive result from this match would be very helpful to his job security, player mentality, and fan approval.
|"If only I could coach Milan and come back and beat Fiorentina..."|
Fiorentina have often caused problems for Milan historically, and on paper, this year, they are destined to do so again. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Mihajlovic, it’s that matches aren’t won on paper, they are won on the pitch. Well, that, and he no longer reads the newspaper. But as much as it is tempting to curl up in that Milan bunker with large quantities of hard liquor, this game could work out for us… just maybe. Although you may want to keep that liquor handy for after the match. But in reality, the result will be which team is most capable of stepping up on Sunday.
This post inspired by the music of Madness’ “One Step Beyond”
Milan vs. Fiorentina
Sunday, January 17 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match will be shown LIVE on RAI in the U.S.