With tomorrow's tilt against Fiorentina fast approaching, we decided to sit down with Lorenzo from our fellow SB Nation blog Viola Nation and have a bit of a question and answer session. Well, by "sit down with", I mean "email with", because it's not like sitting down with someone half a world away is easy to do.
Without further ado, here's the results of our conversation. Lorenzo's a pretty insightful guy when it comes to Fiorentina analysis, so enjoy his views.
1) After getting knocked out of Europa at the foot of Andrea Pirlo, how will Fiorentina fare on Sunday? What sorts of changes (if any) can we expect from Vincenzo Montella?
Predictions are tricky for this one, although I don't expect the team to be too demoralized given the nature of the defeat. We played well, and the game turned on a single incident against a (let's say it) better team, so morale in the camp remains pretty high; definitely higher than it was after drawing at home against Parma several weeks ago. Montella and the players also know the importance of the game in Naples, and will look to avenge losing in the first meeting last October.
Montella experimented heavily on the tactical front in the two games against Juventus, with mixed results. I think we will return to a 3-5-2, with young Polish talent Rafael Wolski expected to start after a positive performance against Chievo Verona last weekend. The midfield and defense will probably remain the same as against Juventus, and hopefully Mario Gomez will start instead of Alessandro Matri.
2) Napoli, of course, were knocked out of Europe as well. Do you see that as a weakness Fiorentina will be able to exploit?
I didn't catch the second half of the return leg of Napoli - Porto and was honestly stunned that they went out at home. Whether or not that result affects their performance on Sunday all depends on the Benitez and the mentality of the players. I would expect both Fiorentina and Napoli to show up with clear heads, but tired legs might make the affair a bit imprecise.
3) What do you fear most about Fiorentina's visit to Naples?
I fear the same thing that I (rightfully) feared when Napoli visited Florence in the fall: the clinical ability and speed of the Napoli attackers. Callejon, Higuain, Mertens, Insigne are all players who are able to transform half-chances into goals as well as any players in the world, and their link-up is astonishing at times.
The way Montella's Fiorentina play, we will necessarily concede some space in transition, but the idea is that those chances will be limited, and we will have more. That often works against most teams, but Napoli are a great exception. We conceded only 2 shots on target in our first meeting, and Napoli won.
4) Fully healthy and in form, who gives more to Fiorentina and Montella's style: Giuseppi Rossi or Mario Gomez?
I honestly don't fully know, because we are yet to see the fully healthy and in form Mario Gomez, but at this moment Giuseppe Rossi. Pepito's unpredictability and class on the ball is synonymous with Montella, even though Gomez has the potential to be similarly invaluable for the team, especially tactically. More than anything, Rossi would give more were he fit because, with Borja Valero, he is already an integral part of the team's identity, on and off the field. A couple good months of play from Gomez might change things, but Rossi has established himself as a leader and symbol for the team as a whole, which is very important.
5) is the Champions League still a realistic option for the viola?
Unless we win away at Napoli (hard), at home to Milan (hard-ish), and then go on a serious tear (hardest), I would rule out the Champions League. Anything less than three points against Napoli would also rule it out for me, at which point finishing 4th would, in my opinion, still be an important marker for team morale going into next season, after all our misfortune.
Oh right, and then see you in the Coppa Italia Final in May! What a game that will be!
I answered some questions for Lorezno as well, so head over there to check Viola Nation out as well as the rest of their great coverage of Italy's fourth-place squad.