Atalanta vs Fiorentina, preview: Viola hope to keep Champions League dream alive

Claudio Villa

Fiorentina may be six points back of third place, but their ten-man, come from behind victory against Milan shows they've yet to give up on the Champions League dream. But will Atalanta be anxious to fell another top side's ambitions?

It's a must win match in Bergamo if Fiorentina want to hold on to any hopes of playing in the Champions League next season. Last weekend, despite being down a man for the entire second half, the Viola managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit and send AC Milan home with just a point. But Vincenzo Montella's men are still six points behind the rossoneri, and time is running out to sneak into third place. Even worse, a tiny slip could send Fiorentina out of the European places altogether.

In other words, now is not the time for a plague of injuries to hit the side -- but apparently God's not a huge fan of purple. In addition to long term injuries, the Viola are without Stevan Jovetic yet again, as well as compatriot Stefan Savic. Team captain Manuel Pasqual is injured as well. Luca Toni also didn't make the cut, leaving Fiorentina rather short on forward options (although they've still got about 25 playmakers to choose from). In fact, the squad list for the trip to Bergamo included just 19 players.

Atalanta, meanwhile, have nothing to play for except pride -- but that certainly didn't stop them last weekend at the San Siro. By the 65th minute, Inter Milan had a 3-1 lead, and it seemed the nerazzurri might even be back in the fight for the last Champions League spot. But then German Denis decided he'd had enough. The Argentine opened his scoring by converting a penalty and went on to score a hat-trick inside 12 minutes, giving Atalanta the 4-3 victory.

So it's safe to say that Atalanta won't be standing at the gates handing out swag bags to the visitors. The weight of this performance probably rests most heavily on Adem Ljajic, so often overshadowed on this Viola side. Say what you will about whether Fiorentina's first penalty last week was deserved -- it was an impressive bit of footwork by Ljajic nonetheless, and his conversion was smooth and composed. Without JoJo to hog the spotlight, and absent Toni to fall back upon, Ljajic's performance could be what makes or breaks Fiorentina's Champions League dreams.

(Although it would also help if David Pizarro didn't allow the Atalanta side to stroll right through the midfield and score a goal).

Atalanta Injuries and Suspensions

Igor Budan, Riccardo Cazzola and Guido Marilungo (injured); Gianpaolo Bellini (in doubt); Carlos Carmona, Luca Cigarini and Cristian Raimondi (suspended)

Fiorentina Injuries and Suspensions

Michele Camporese, Matias Fernandez, Ahmed Hegazy, Stevan Jovetic, Manuel Pasqual, Giuseppe Rossi, Stefan Savic, Luca Toni and Rafal Wolski (injured); Nenad Tomovic (suspended)

Ljajic better watch out for a bolt of lightning as it appears all his fellow -ic brothers are being smited.

Match Date / Time: Saturday, April 13 at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, Bergamo

TV: Sky Calcio 1, ESPN UK, BeIN Sport, RAI Internazionale

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