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Champions League Preview: Bayern Munich - Fiorentina

Kick-Off: Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 20:45 CET.
Allianz Arena, Munich.

From Flop To Top

Bayern Munich's qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League owed as much to their imperious form in the second half of the group stages as to Juventus' horrendous results in the final two matches. Eventually Bayern qualified ahead of the Bianconeri as runners-up in Group A after defeating them 4-1 in Turin and since then have gone on to dominate the German Bundesliga too.

At the moment the Bavarians are second in the German top flight with 48 points from 22 matches, same as that of leaders Bayer Leverkusen, but are second on goal difference. Their 3-1 comeback win against Borussia Dortmund at the weekend was their 12th successive win in all competitions.

Most of the Bayern players have picked up form since the latter games of the Champions League group stage and are playing attacking, efficient and breathtaking football too. Two months back, taking on Fiorentina even at home would have been daunting, but now Louis van Gaal's side will be confident of taking a healthy lead in the first leg.

However, die Roten took just four points from a possible nine at the Allianz Arena in the group stages and scored only one goal, in the narrow victory against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.

Radically Going Off The Boil


Fiorentina were the only Italian side to win their group in the Champions League and finished as the second highest scorers among all teams too. Moreover, the Viola were the most impressive side from Serie A in Europe's most prestigious club competition and defeated Liverpool both home and away.

Fast forward two months and Fiorentina have gone almost radically off the boil. At the moment the Viola are 11th in Serie A with 31 points from 23 matches and have won only once in their last seven matches in all competitions, having not won in their last five Serie A matches. The lack of depth in their squad has been cruelly exposed and it would take a brave man to predict a Viola victory at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night.

Moreover, the Tuscan club have never won in Germany, having suffered three defeats in four matches on German soil, and have not reached the quarter-finals of Europe's most prestigious club competition since the 1969-1970 season.

However, Fiorentina have a good away record in Europe. La Viola have lost only two of their last 11 away matches on the continent and are looking to win their third successive away game in Europe for the first time. Moreover, Cesare Prandelli's side have the ability to lift their game during cup matches and the underdog status against Bayern in Munich could just liberate them of any pressure and help them gain something from Wednesday's first leg.


FORM GUIDE

Bayern Munich

February 13 v Borussia Dortmund (H) - WON 3-1 (Serie A)

February 10 v SpVgg Greuther Fuerth (H) - WON 6-2 (DFB Pokal)

February 6 v Wolfsburg (A) - WON 3-1 (Bundesliga)

January 30 v Mainz (H) - WON 3-0 (Bundesliga)

January 26 v Ingolstadt (A) - WON 2-0 (Friendly)

Fiorentina

February 13 v Sampdoria (A) - LOST 2-0 (Serie A)

February 7 v Roma (H) - LOST 1-0 (Serie A)

February 3 v Inter (A) - LOST 1-0 (Coppa Italia)

January 31 v Cagliari (A) - DREW 2-2 (Serie A)

January 24 v Palermo (A) - LOST 3-0 (Serie A)


TEAM NEWS 

Bayern Munich

Coach Louis van Gaal will have a full set of players to choose from as Bayern have no injury or suspension worries. Key player Franck Ribery is fit again to start for the Bavarians and it is likely that the Dutchman will alter his formation to 4-2-2-2 or 4-2-3-1, implying that the midfield will be packed with attacking players and this will increase the pressure on the already stretched Fiorentina defence. With Arjen Robben on one flank and Ribery on the other, the Bayern line-up does indeed look frighteningly offensive.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Butt, Lahm, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Badstuber; Van Bommel, Schweinsteiger; Robben, Mueller, Ribery; Gomez

Fiorentina

Central defender Alessandro Gamberini dislocated his shoulder in their league fixture against Sampdoria at the weekend and is sidelined for two months. Midfielder
Mario Santana suffered a calf injury and and is likely to be out for between three and four weeks. Adrian Mutu and Cristiano Zanetti are also out of the trip to Munich, implying that Viola coach Prandelli will have to rely on back-up players on Wednesday night.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Frey, Comotto, Felipe, Kroldrup, Pasqual; Montolivo, Donadel; Marchionni, Jovetic, Vargas; Gilardino


PLAYERS TO WATCH


Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

The French genius has been struggling with a knee injury of late but is now back with a bang. At the moment he is ranked 69th in the Castrol Rankings but that should not detract from the fact that he is world class, and against a rather fragile-looking Fiorentina side he will be eager to give his best. Ribery has featured in just 10 Bundesliga matches and has scored twice and provided four assists. The 26-year-old will be starting on the flank but drifting towards the middle to provide more penetration.

Juan Manuel Vargas (Fiorentina)

The Peruvian international was one of the best players in the group stages of the Champions League and he will be eager to resume his European form on Wednesday. Vargas provided four assists and scored one goal in the group stages and although the dip in form of Fiorentina since January has invariably resulted in him losing form, the 26-year-old will be eager to raise his game and torment Bayern along the left flank.


PREDICTION


Given the current contrasting forms of the two sides, it will be tough for Fiorentina to take home anything from Munich. Bayern have looked imperious in the Bundesliga and Louis van Gaal has galvanised his side to make them a proper team. However, Bayern are susceptible defensively, especially in central defence, and although their superior firepower up front assures them of scoring more than the Florence-based side, die Roten could concede a goal.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Fiorentina

With input from Clark Whitney