19 rounds down, 19 to go, and the battle for the Scudetto is well underway. With Napoli and Juventus both recording wins to remain in first and second respectively, and Inter failing to find a way past Atalanta, Fiorentina are now in a good position to conclude matchday 20 back in a Champions League spot – provided, of course, they can beat AC Milan later today.
The Viola have enjoyed one of their best campaigns in recent times, and the last meeting between Sinisa Mihajlović and his tactical opponent Paulo Sousa ended as a 2-0 win in favor of the Tuscan side. Although they did suffer a 3-1 reversal in their most recent match against Lazio, Fiorentina have scored in each and every single one of their past 26 matches – a club record – and one would be hard-pressed to find too many who would bet against them managing to do so later today. Additionally, they enjoy a good record when it comes to facing the Rossoneri at the San Siro, having beaten their opponents in five of their last nine matches, losing just once.
One player Milan will have to keep their eye on is Nikola Kalinic, who put the Diavolo’s cross-town rivals to the sword with a hat-trick in Fiorentina’s 4-1 demolition of the Nerazzurri earlier this season. The Croatian international has been unusually quiet as of late, but with ten goals to his name and having never gone three straight games sans finding the back of the net, Rossoneri followers will be hoping that their back-line will be able to keep him quiet today.
Meanwhile, Milan were also frustrated by a Rome-based side as they had to fight their way back from a goal down to secure a draw against the Giallorossi. Whilst the result did not prove to be Mihajlović’s undoing, this has not stopped the rumors from circling about the Serbian tactician’s future on the bench as the hosts are still seeking their first league win of 2016, but they will face a tough task against Fiorentina.
As noted before, Milan do not have a good track record playing the Viola – with just one win in their last nine meetings – and still have not appeared to have found any kind of positive momentum so far this season. Since returning to the club, Kevin Prince Boateng has looked solid, and Mario Balotelli is now back with the squad after being out since September. Both players, on a good day can certainly have their say in a match, but will need time to re-adjust after being absent from the pitch for such an extended period of time.
Currently sitting in eighth place, Milan are a whopping 11 points away from that Champions League spot they desperately crave. A Europa League berth is perhaps more realistic, but they sit six points behind Roma and there are two teams – in particular Sassuolo, who have a game in hand – who sit ahead and will be also determined to make a push for fifth. Still, a win over Carpi in the Coppa Italia has the Rossoneri into the semi-finals, which could present them with their best opportunity not just to clinch some some silverware, but book their place in European competition, especially as they will be pitted against lower tier opposition in the form of Spezia or Alessandria.
But that will not take place till another week or so, and first up will be to try to earn their first three points of 2016. Will Milan be able to overcome their bad history at home versus a tricky Fiorentina side? Or will the Viola rebound after their defeat against the Biancocelesti to get their Scudetto race back on track?
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