This season has been a mixture of highs and lows. A difficult pre-season, a bright start, dropping down the league table, advancing in the Champions League, it’s been a year of mixed emotions for Fiorentina.
Alia Guagni, the homegrown hero decided it was time to move on. Having been at the club when it was still Firenze, she had come up through the youth teams to break into the senior side way back in 2002. When an offer came in from Atletico Madrid, it was too good for the player to turn down.
Striker Ilaria Mauro made the move to Inter, Belgian defender Davina Philtjens went to Sassuolo and Laura Agard switched to Milan. Rocco Commisso, an Italian-American businessman had taken over the club the previous season, and the club did bring in a lot of new faces.
ArrivalsEmbed from Getty Images
Louise Quinn, who had seen Fiorentina in action against Arsenal in the Champions League, joined the club when her contract expired with the Gunners.
Cláudia Neto came in from Wolfsburg. Experienced striker Daniela Sabatino joined from Sassuolo, and of course, a familiar face to all City fans, Tessel Middag was another new signing.
Ups And Downs
The club’s pre-season didn’t quite go as planned. Between covid issues and a fire in Rome, they only managed to play one friendly before the league got underway.
It didn’t seem to have too much impact on the team at first as they got off to a flying start. An opening day 4-0 win over Inter was followed by two wins against Napoli and neighbours Florentia San Gimignano.
Then the wheels seem to come off a little. Three league losses in a row and the worst of those came against rivals Juventus. A Louise Quinn sending off very early in the game put the writing on the walls and the Viola ended up losing 4-0.
New Year’s Revolution
Between then and the end of 2020 the team were inconsistent in the league, unable to put a run together. Unfortunately, this means they are now out of the running to even qualify for a Champions League place.
They did seem to have turned a corner after the Christmas break, however. The year started with a win over AC Milan in the Supercoppa semi-final where Louise Quinn scored the winner. They did lose the final to rivals Juventus but they then put together a three-game winning streak in the league.
In the middle of that run, they did get knocked out of the Coppa Italia over two legs by Inter. Their most recent outing, last Saturday, was a short trip away to Florentia San Gimignano. A 2-0 defeat to their Tuscan neighbours has now put even a top-four finish at risk, as an in-form Roma have now moved ahead in the table.
Pride Of Prague
In the Champions League, they had to get past Czech club Slavia Prague to make it to this stage of the competition. The first leg took place in Florence in December, and Louise Quinn gave the home side an early lead after just four minutes. Slavia though would then take the lead by the hour mark.
With just over ten minutes left to play, it was Daniela Sabatino who’s equalizer gave Fiorentina a life-line going into the second leg.
The club’s top-scorer this season was to be the hero in Prague too. The game was heading for a scoreless draw and the Viola were heading out of the competition. The game was already in added time, which was almost up. When Fiorentina were awarded a free-kick.
A last gasp chance then, and they certainly took it. As the ball was floated into the box it was Sabatino who rose to meet it and as her header nestled in the back of the net as the Fiorentina players and staff celebrated a famous victory. Definitely the highlight of this season.
Injuries And Goodbyes
So it’s a rather inconsistent team that City will meet, but one with a big heart and a never say die attitude. Along with those pre-season problems, and having to integrate a lot of new players into the squad, the club have also had to deal with a number of injuries and absences due to Covid.
The good news is that two of those players who have been out since the start of the year with Covid returned to training last week and are now available for the trip to Manchester.
Martina Piemonte and Stephanie Breitner were almost ever-present in the team before their forced absence and they also both played in the two legs of the previous Champions League tie with Slavia.
Another recent return from injury is the Portuguese playmaker, Cláudia Neto. The captain of her national side has plenty of experience of the Champions League, having played in the competition with her two previous clubs, Wolfsburg and Swedish side Linköpings respectively.
Since January Fiorentina have lost another player to Atletico Madrid, with Tatiana Bonetti making the move to Spain which has been a huge blow. American Abigail Kim has also returned back home to the US.
Between the posts we can expect to see Italian international Katja Schroffenegger. The 29-year-old joined the club this season from neighbours Florentia and now looks to have overtaken Stéphanie Öhrström in the pecking order.
In both Champions League games so far, Fiorentina played with Marta Mascarello, Stephanie Breitner and Neto in midfield. Mascarello has been out since early in the New Year with a knee injury picked up in training and hasn’t been available since.
As mentioned, Breitner has just returned from Covid and although she is available for this game, it’s doubtful that she’ll be involved from the start.
Talking About Middag
Tessel Middag will need no introduction to City fans. An early season injury meant the Dutch midfielder struggled to maintain a first team place but her form since the Christmas break has made her an ever present in the middle of the park. Middag also scored her first goals for the club in January.
She grabbed the opener in a 3-1 win over San Marino, but enjoyed the next one even more. The following game away to Inter looked to be heading for a 2-2 draw until Middag scored a stunning winner with just five minutes left to play.
It’s not just her scoring ability that has impressed, but she is constantly involved in Fiorentina’s build-up play. You will see her back helping out the defence and is always looking to get on the ball.
Middag was a player that Fiorentina, and especially the manager, had been looking to bring to the club for over a year before she signed. That perseverance paid off, and now we are getting to see her back to her best.
Her partners in midfield in recent games have been Greta Adami and Valery Vigilucci. Both players have been playing their football in Florence since before Fiorentina took over. Adami has scored two league goals this season.
It’s been quite a consistent back four for the club lately. Louise Quinn has been at the heart of the defense since the start of the season. She’s also a goal scoring threat when it comes to set-pieces.
Apart from her goal in the Champions League, the Irish international has also scored a goal in the league, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa.
Danish international Frederikke Thøgersen has been employed this season on the right of the back four. She enjoys playing out on the wing and will try to get forward as much as she can.
Alice Tortelli is still only 23-years-old, but the Florence-born defender has been with the club since 2013. She also made her first appearance for the Italian national side this season.
She has impressed at the back this season alongside Quinn, and also played in both Champions League games. Latest updates though say she’s injured even though she was named in the squad. Greta Adami will possibly slot into the back four.
We Are Young
Martina Zanoli, only very recently celebrated her 19th birthday, but in this her first season with Fiorentina, has only missed one game in all competitions for the club. The right-back’s performances earned her a call up to the Italian squad for the recent win over Israel when Alia Guagni pulled out through injury.
With Bonetti now gone, it’s given Sara Baldi a chance to cement her place in the first team. The 20-year-old is on loan from Verona. Baldi has started the last five league games and scored her first Serie A goal in the win over San Marino in January. She had also scored against the same club in their Coppa Italia clash back in November.
Fiorentina’s injury problems this season has also meant some other younger players getting their chance. One of those who has certainly impressed is 19-year-old Margherita Monnecchi who has been a starter in recent games. The young forward is also a good option to have on the bench. She replaced Clelland in Saturday’s match.
Another young player in the squad for the trip to the Academy stadium is Rebecca Mani. The 19-year-old midfielder made her first appearance for the club as a late substitution last Saturday.
While Mani won’t be in the starting line-up, it’s a great experience to be involved in such a big game.
Lana Clelland has only made three starts in the league this season, and is yet to get on the scoresheet. She did make the starting lineup in the most recent game and also looked impressive when she came on in the Coppa game against Inter.
A shoulder injury forced her off early in the second half in last Saturday’s loss, but the Scot has been included in the squad for Manchester.
One player who will definitely be involved is Daniela Sabatino. The striker is the only Fiorentina player to have played in every game in all competitions this season. The experienced Italian international came on as a second half sub in Italy’s 12-0 win last week, scoring two goals.
In this season’s league campaign she has 11 goals to her name. Added to that are her two Champions League goals and her four in the Coppa Italia.Embed from Getty Images
Now 35-years-old, Sabatino’s has been knocking in goals for the last 15 years in Serie A. She also has previous Champions League experience from her Brescia days, where she helped the club win two league titles.
Her former clubs also include Reggiana, AC Milan and Sassuolo. Her international career has seen her score 31 times in her 66 appearances.
Who’s The BossEmbed from Getty Images
Manager Antonio Cincotta has been at the club since 2016. The 35-year-old has previously worked with Fiammamonza and Como. While disappointed with the most recent defeat, especially coming in a derby game, he will have made sure that the team has already put that loss behind them already.
With Fiorentina out of the running in the league and no longer in the Coppa Italia, this is a massive game for the club. While not many expect them to beat Manchester City, nobody should underestimate this group. Not only are they proudly representing their club and city in Europe, but also Italian football too.