UEFA Cup Preview: Ajax – Fiorentina

Amsterdam giants Ajax defend a 1-0 lead in the second leg of a highly anticipated UEFA Cup clash against Fiorentina.
Kickoff: Thursday, 26 February 2009, 20:45 CET, Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Can Ajax Rob Fiorentina Again?

Ajax manager Marco van Basten happily admitted that his side might have gotten more than they deserved in the first leg between this two matches. Despite having several huge chances to open the score, the Italians simply failed to find the net, while Ajax immediately grabbed the first chance they got to secure a 1-0 win.

Therefore, Fiorentina will have to start the match with attacking intentions in order to proceed to the next round. Starting the match one goal behind shouldn’t be too much of a problem for La Viola though. They bounced back from a 1-0 score last Sunday, while they fought back to a draw after falling 3-0 behind the previous week.

Ajax have been struggling in the Eredivisie after the winter break, but they still managed to grab the full six points from their last two matches. However, Van Basten made it clear that he was everything but happy with the way Volendam were sent home empty handed on Sunday. The Ajax attackers showed some sloppy finishing and will have to do better on Thursday to prevent a defeat.

The match will be overshadowed by Wednesday’s airplane tragedy at Schiphol. Nine persons didn’t survive the crash, while 86 others sustained serious injuries. It’s up to Ajax and Fiorentina to help the people forget about the crash a bit with a nice football show.
 
FORM GUIDE

Fiorentina

22 February (Serie A): Fiorentina 2-1 Chievo
19 February (UEFA Cup): Fiorentina 0-1 Ajax
15 February (Serie A): Genoa 3-3 Fiorentina
8 February (Serie A): Fiorentina 1-0 Lazio   
2 February (Serie A): Bologna 1-3 Fiorentina

Ajax

22 February (Eredivisie): Ajax 2-1 Volendam
19 February (UEFA Cup): Fiorentina 0-1 Ajax
15 February (Eredivisie): Ajax 2-0 Feyenoord
8 February (Eredivisie): Vitesse 4-1 Ajax
3 February (Eredivisie): Ajax 2-2 Heracles Almelo

TEAM NEWS

Ajax

Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Dennis Rommedahl, Hans Vonk, and Laurent Delorge were all removed from Ajax’s UEFA Cup list. Youngsters Marvin Zeegelaar and Marco Bizot were added to the list.

Gabri, Eyong Enoh, Dario Cvitanich, Jan Vertonghen, Daley Blind, and Ismail Aissati all returned to full match fitness in the past couple of days and are part of the match squad again. Long term injury concerns Mitchell Donald and Jan Arie van der Heijden are still unavailable, as is youngster Siem de Jong.

Probable Starting XI: Stekelenburg – Van der Wiel, Oleguer, Vertonghen, Vermaelen – Lindgren, Gabri, Emanuelson – Suarez, Cvitanich, Sulejmani

Fiorentina

Giampaolo Pazzini and  Pablo Osvaldo were removed from Fiorentina’s UEFA Cup roster, while Manuel Pasqual and Gianluca Comotto were added to the list.

Argentine winger Mario Alberto Santana is out for the remainder of the campaign after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Probable Starting XI: Frey – Comotto, Dainelli, Gamberini, Vargas – Montolivo, Donadel, Felipe Melo, Semioli – Gilardino, Mutu

Players to watch

Ajax will rely on the individual class of Serbian forward Miralem Sulejmani. The tricky forward hasn’t found his best form yet at Ajax, but is always a player to reckon with. His mazy runs and intelligent movement will normally cause a serious threat to the Italian defenders. A good performance against Fiorentina could be his definite breakthrough.

The hosts will be happy to see Adrian Mutu continue his superb form. The Romanian forward scored four goals in his last two league matches. The Ajax defense will have to be in a superb shape to deny the former Chelsea man. Mutu will be happy to return to Holland with La Viola, he scored twice in his last match on Dutch soil in the match against PSV.

PREDICTION

Based on last week’s match, Fiorentina should be able to secure a good result. However, they need to show some better finishing than last week if they want to eliminate Ajax. Especially since several important players are back available again for the Amsterdam outfit. I don’t expect Fiorentina to squander as much chances as last week though, while Ajax probably won’t be that lucky again. Nevertheless, you never know what will happen in the Amsterdam ArenA.

Ajax 1-2 Fiorentina

Stefan Coerts, Goal.com