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Serie A Week 13 - 22/11/08 (17.00 UK)
Fiorentina - Udinese
Stadio Franchi

The two main dark horses for the Champions League spots find themselves needing a win already if they are to keep that ambition alive.

Udinese and Fiorentina battled to the end for a place in Europe’s prime competition last season, the Tuscans going through in fourth. Since then both teams have found it tough competing on three fronts, as the Friulani can’t seem to replicate their UEFA Cup success on home turf, while the Viola are beset by injuries and poor stamina.

Confidence is at an all-time low right now, as both lost to relegation strugglers last weekend. Fiorentina capitulated 1-0 in Cagliari to a dubious penalty that raised the ire of the usually unflappable Cesare Prandelli.

Udinese couldn’t even blame the referee for their woeful performance in a shock 1-0 home defeat to Reggina, who up until that point had lost every away game. It was their second consecutive defeat. “We are unpredictable,” confessed Pasquale Marino. “We failed the opportunity to prove we are a big team, as it’s easy to get motivated for a crunch match, but less so against the bottom of the table club.”

Motivation certainly won’t be an issue at the Stadio Franchi, as precious points, position and prestige are all up for grabs. Adrian Mutu should return from his injury lay-off to bolster Fiorentina, while Dario Dainelli has recovered from gastroenteritis. Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and former Udinese hero Martin Jorgensen are unlikely to make it.

The visitors are still sorely missing star player Antonio Di Natale, whose knee problems have ruled him out of the last two games. In his absence, teenage sensation Alexis Sanchez could be given the nod to complete the trident with Fabio Quagliarella and Simone Pepe. Fiorentina will be happy Di Natale is out, as last season he scored the winner in a game that ended the Viola’s 13-month unbeaten home record.

Keep an eye on: Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) – Not only is he Fiorentina’s top scorer this season with eight Serie A goals, he also has a strong history against Udinese. He has put 11 goals past this club in his career, including four in Parma’s 4-3 victory of 2004.

Last season: Fiorentina 1-2 Udinese

Form guide: Fiorentina (W D L W L) Udinese (W W D L L)
Fiorentina (probable): Frey; Comotto, Dainelli, Gamberini, Vargas; Donadel, Felipe Melo, Montolivo; Santana, Gilardino, Mutu

Udinese (probable): Handanovic; Ferronetti, Coda, Domizzi, Lukovic; Inler, D’Agostino, Isla; Pepe, Quagliarella, Sanchez

Ref: To follow…

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