With Sampdoria in 15th, nine points above the drop and with no hope of finishing in the top half of the table, one might harbor a faint hope that they'd be willing to go easy on the visitors. After all, Fiorentina are just a point away from catching AC Milan and that incredibly precious Champions League qualifiers spot. And who wouldn't want to see a lovely purple kit in Europe?
Delio Rossi, that's who. Last May, while in charge of the Viola, Rossi made the obviously foolish decision to substitute Adem Ljajic, before the halftime whistle had even blown. Ljajic, none too pleased, sarcastically applauded his coach and gave him the thumbs up from the dugout. Rossi dove down, physically attacking his own player. Fiorentina immediately sacked Rossi, who also received a three month ban from Italian football.
So his mid-season appointment at Samp is the first since Rossi's sacking, and the first time he's encountered Fiorentina since the incident. Supposedly Rossi's put the incident behind him, but it's Ljajic that will have the opportunity to take the high road. The midfielder has been excellent of late, stepping up in the absence of Stevan Jovetic and scoring the third goal in Fior's 4-3 win against Torino last week. What better way to get revenge on Rossi than metaphorically sucker-punching him by leading Fiorentina to a win?*
Of course, if Ljajic can't extract revenge on his own, there are plenty Viola players ready to step up and score. Last week the other three goals came from Juan Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani and substitute Rômulo. Vincenzo Montella loves nothing more than to field twelve playmakers, leaving their opponents liable to be exposed from just about anywhere. Sampdoria may not have the worst defense in the league, but it would be truly surprising if they manage to keep a clean sheet in this one.
Then again, the last time Fiorentina had the opportunity to close the gap on Milan, they stumbled to a loss at Cagliari. Despite the dramatics surrounding this fixture, what's most essential is that the Viola keep their heads cool.
*however, if Ljaja would rather skip the "metaphorical" part, I'd certainly cheer him on.
Sampdoria Injuries and Suspensions
Eder and Nenad Krsticic (injured)
Fiorentina Injuries and Suspensions
Facundo Roncaglia (injured)
Match Date / Time
Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
Sky Calcio 4 and...Serbia's Arena Sport 1, for all those harboring unhealthy obsessions with Fiorentina's Serbian and Montenegrin players.