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Champions League Play-Off Preview: Fiorentina - Sporting CP

Wednesday 26 August, 20:45 CET
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence

Fiorentina Looking For First Win


Fiorentina have started the new season in somewhat unconvincing fashion, drawing two games they probably should have won. Last week in the first leg of this Champions League play-off tie against Sporting Clube de Portugal they squandered an opportunity after going a man up away from home, as Simon Vukcevic was sent off right after scoring the equaliser, which came after Juan Vargas’ early goal. Instead, Miguel Veloso soon gave Sporting the lead, and the home side could have had more, despite being reduced to ten men.

Fortunately for them, Alberto Gilardino scored a vital late equaliser to make it 2-2, giving them an edge going into this second leg. Last weekend, the Viola drew their opening Serie A fixture 1-1 away to lowly Bologna, who surprised Fiorentina with a highly aggressive approach to the match. Former Viola man Pablo Osvaldo gave the home side an early lead, before Adrian Mutu’s smashing shot toward the top corner round the hour mark made it all square again.

Against Sporting, Cesare Prandelli’s side will try to get their first victory of the season, although of course a 0-0 or 1-1 draw would also see them through. They will be aiming to make their second successive appearance in the Champions League group stage, after ending up in a group with heavyweights Bayern Munich and Olympique Lyon last season, also following a qualifying tie against Slavia Prague.

The Viola will hope the Portuguese side’s poor tradition against Italian clubs continues. Sporting have never won on Italian soil, and they’ve won just two out of nine two-legged encounters against Serie A sides. In recent times they have twice been eliminated by Italian sides in Champions League qualifying rounds, in 2002 by Inter and in 2005 by Udinese.

Problems For Sporting

After the 2-2 draw against Fiorentina a week ago, certainly not a good result for a home match, Sporting went on to lose their second league match 2-1 at home against Braga. It’s obvious Paulo Bento’s side are having their share of problems, as they have yet to register a victory in this early part of the season, and they also rarely managed to impress during the pre-season period.

Particularly in the third qualifying round of the Champions League against Dutch runners-up Twente, Sporting scraped through by the skin of their teeth. The first leg in Lisbon finished 0-0, while in the second leg only a last-minute own goal allowed the Portuguese side to make it 1-1 and go through to the next round on the away goal rule.

In the league, they started with a 1-1 draw away to Nacional, a respectable result since their opponents finished fourth last season, but obviously losing at home was not part of the plan for Sporting, even though Braga finished fifth last term. Now they face a very tricky task in the second leg of this Champions League play-off against Fiorentina, who have a clear advantage after the 2-2 draw in the first leg.

The spirit Sporting showed in that match, in which they came back from behind despite going down to ten men, does give them hope of making it through, as they might have won had Vukcevic not been red-carded. If they do qualify for the group stage, it will be their fourth consecutive appearance at that stage of the competition.


FORM GUIDE

Fiorentina

22/08 (Serie A): Bologna-Fiorentina 1-1
18/08 (Champions League Play-Off): Sporting Lisbon-Fiorentina 2-2
14/08 (Friendly): Fiorentina-Figline 1-0
08/08 (Friendly): Aston Villa-Fiorentina 1-0
29/07 (Friendly): Fiorentina-PSG 0-3

Sporting CP

22/08 (Portuguese Liga): Sporting Lisbon-Sporting Braga 1-2
18/08 (Champions League Play-Off): Sporting Lisbon-Fiorentina 2-2
15/08 (Portuguese Liga): Nacional-Sporting Lisbon 1-1
04/08 (Champions League 3rd preliminary round): Twente-Sporting Lisbon 1-1
28/07 (Champions League 3rd preliminary round): Sporting Lisbon -Twente 0-0

 
TEAM NEWS
 
Fiorentina

Prandelli has a full squad available, except for striker Jose Castillo and newly-signed midfielder Cristiano Zanetti, who is out injured.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Sebastien Frey, Vlada Avramov.

Defenders: Gianluca Comotto, Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini, Per Kroldrup, Cesare Natali, Juan Vargas, Manuel Pasqual.

Midfielders: Marco Donadel, Mario Santana, Riccardo Montolivo, Stevan Jovetic, Martin Jorgensen, Massimo Gobbi, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Marco Marchionni.

Strikers: Adrian Mutu, Alberto Gilardino, Andrea Seculin, Khouma Babacar.

Possible formation (4-3-1-2): Frey; Comotto, Dainelli, Gamberini, Vargas; Kuzmanovic, Montolivo, Zanetti; Santana; Mutu, Gilardino.

Sporting CP

Felipe Caicedo, Marat Izmailov and Helder Postiga are out injured, while Simon Vukcevik is suspended after his red card in the first leg.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio, Tiago, Ricardo Batista.

Defenders: Abel, Pedro Silva, Daniel Carrico, Anderson Polga, Marco Caneira, Tonel, Andre Marques, Leandro Grimi.

Midfielders: Adrien Silva, Fabio Rochemback, Miguel Veloso, Bruno Pereirinha, João Moutinho, Matias Fernandez.

Strikers: Saleiro, Yannick Djalo Liedson.

Possible formation (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Abel, Polga, Carrico, Andre Marques; Fernandez, Veloso, Moutinho; Saleiro, Liedson, Djalo.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Adrian Mutu (Fiorentina)

Last weekend he scored a great goal to equalise the match against Bologna, but he was unable to celebrate uproariously as he struggled to contain his worries about the €17 million fine he is supposed to pay to Chelsea for his cocaine use a few years ago. It’s certainly a difficult situation, but the Romanian star is an unmissable player for Fiorentina, who will certainly continue to count on him for the remainder of the season.

Liedson (Sporting CP)

Although he has yet to get off the mark for Sporting this season, the Brazilian striker only needs a goal to unblock himself. In past seasons he has often ended up as the team’s top scorer, and he currently has an impressive record of 102 goals in 168 appearances for the club since joining them in 2003.


PREDICTION

Fiorentina will suffer, but eventually qualify thanks to the away goals rule.

Fiorentina 1-1 Sporting

Danilo Pochini, Goal.com