It’s been a turbulent decade for Fiorentina, but it’s happy times in Florence again, as the Viola are winning both domestically and continentally.
Along with challenging for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, Cesare Prandelli’s side are set to face three-time defending Dutch champions PSV in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup next week.
After going through bankruptcy, relegation, controversy, and scandal, La Viola are making good headlines these days, though there have been a couple of obstacles this season, having to replace Luca Toni, arguably the biggest piece of their resurgence, the passing of Prandelli’s wife in November, and a dip in the side’s form around that same time.
PSV have had their share of ups and downs this season as well, from losing coach Ronald Koeman to Valencia, to being disqualified from the Dutch Cup and eliminated from the Champions League. But, they’re on track to claim their fourth straight Eredivisie title, with a seven-point lead with four matches to go, and are fighting for a European trophy 20 years after winning their lone Champions League crown, and 30 years after claiming their only previous UEFA Cup trophy.
Both Fiorentina and PSV defeated English opposition in penalty shootouts to advance to the final eight. Fiorentina took on Everton in the round of 16, and after Fiorentina won 2-0 in Florence, Everton forced a spot-kick showdown with a 2-0 win at Goodison Park.
In the shootout, Everton’s Yakubu hit the bar, Sebastien Frey saved Phil Jagielka’s attempt, and all four Fiorentina attempts beat Tim Howard, including Mario Santana’s decisive effort that wrapped up a 4-2 win and a quarterfinal berth.
Things were a lot more nervy for PSV in their tie with Tottenham. After a 1-0 win in London, PSV were minutes away from a goalless draw in Eindhoven that would have sent them through, but Dimitar Berbatov forced extra time with an 80th minute goal.
The match went to penalties, and in the shootout, Paul Robinson saved PSV’s second penalty, and even though they made their next three, Spurs had a chance to win it after making good on their first four. However, Jermaine Jenas’ winning attempt was saved, and after Marcellis had given PSV a 6-5 lead, Pascal Chimbonda made himself a Spurs villain by scuffing his penalty wide of the mark to send PSV through.
Both sides have done a good job of replacing holes left by departure of drops in production. In 2006/07, Toni and the rejuvenated Adrian Mutu formed a prolific partnership that was key in turning Fiorentina’s 15-point Calciopoli penalty into a fifth-placed finish (which would have been third without the penalty). But, with Toni now at Bayern Munich, Mutu is the star of the attack, and has netted 16 times this season, with promising Giampaolo Pazzini and the ageless Christian Vieri filling Toni’s void.
PSV have needed some new names to step up as well. Arouna Kone was sold to Sevilla, and party man Jefferson Farfan hasn’t had the same prolific form as he did in the past two seasons, but new signings Danny Koevermans (14 goals) and Danko Lazovic (13 goals), along with Ottman Bakkal (8 goals), have produced throughout the campaign.
Defensively, both sides haven’t been amazing, but they’ve been solid for the most part. PSV have the best defensive record in the goal-happy Eredivisie, with only 23 goals allowed in 30 league ties, and only eight allowed in 10 European matches. Fiorentina have one of the best defensive records in Serie A, with 29 goals allowed in 30 matches, and they have allowed nine goals in 10 UEFA Cup ties.
From the looks of it, this will be a close tie, and the winner of this tie will likely be favored to take down either Rangers or Sporting and oppose tournament favorite Bayern Munich in the final on May 14 in Manchester.