Two nights. Two tense battles. A quick glance says the second legs of both Coppa Italia semifinals should bring plenty of excitement (and, quite possibly, lots of tears). Let's hope the reality lives up to the hype.
Fiorentina vs. Udinese
Tuesday, February 11 at 9 p.m. local, 3 p.m. ET at the Stadio Artemio Franchi
First leg: Udinese 2-1 Fiorentina
Goals: Di Natale (U), Vargas (F), Muriel (U)
There are so many questions surrounding this game. Like, how are Udinese 14th in the table, yet still attempting to win Coppa Italia? Why does Fiorentina have such poor luck, what with both Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gómez picking up long-term injuries? And why, oh why, are midweek games in Florence always scheduled at 9 p.m. rather than the usual 8:45 p.m.?
These questions will likely never be answered. Well, except the first one. See, Udinese are used to getting into Europe. It may be the only way Francesco Guidolin keeps his job. So it's natural the zebrette are giving their all in the Coppa. They've got the advantage right now, but Udinese will have to make sure Fiorentina don't score - always a tough battle against the viola. Udinese have done it already once this season, but they'll need to be extremely careful on Tuesday night, as a 1-0 win for Fiorentina puts them through to the final.
Wednesday, February 12 at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET at the Stadio San Paolo
First leg: Roma 3-2 Napoli
Goals: Gervinho (R), Strootman (R), Higuaín (N), Mertens (N), Gervinho (R)
The reverse fixture was even more thrilling than the game at Udinese, featuring a Napoli comeback that was canceled out by a late Gervinho winner. It's another match in which the home side could advance with a mere 1-0 victory - but fortunately for Napoli, they're also able to reach the Coppa final with a 2-1 result, which sounds a lot more likely considering this squad's propensity for leaking goals.
Napoli managed to keep a clean sheet against Lazio to advance to the semi-finals, but Edy Reja's side isn't exactly known for the same aggressive approach that Rudi Garcia favors. The hosts do have scheduling in their favor: Napoli notched a routine 3-1 win over Milan this weekend, while Garcia put forth what was arguably his best starting XI for the Derby della Capitale. That means Maicon, Kevin Strootman, Gervinho and Francesco Totti have all played two hard-fought battles in the last week. Will the partenopei be able to take advantage? Rafa Benítez normally likes to rotate his squad, but José Callejón sat out most of the Milan match, Marek Hamšík is finally healthy and has had a few minutes rest, and Valon Behrami is back from injury and can take over from Gokhan Inler to partner Jorginho in midfield. With Sassuolo on deck, it's hard to imagine Rafa won't use his best right from the start.
Then again, it's Rafa.