Preview: Fiorentina vs. Lazio 

Preview: Fiorentina vs. Lazio 

Locked together on points in the Serie A standings, seventh-placed Fiorentina and Lazio – who sit eighth – convene at Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday.

While the Viola must recover from losing their top-scoring talisman at the end of the transfer window, their capital counterparts arrive in Florence looking to leapfrog the hosts with a win.

Despite a bright first half of the season under new coach Vincenzo Italiano, top-six contenders Fiorentina return to action amid a darkening scene in the Tuscan capital.

Star striker Dusan Vlahovic had consistently rejected new contract offers throughout last year, and was long thought to be on his way to the Premier League or perhaps La Liga in the summer. However, as it transpired, the prolific Serbia international had lined up a January move to Juventus – a frequent destination for the Viola’s best talents – and has left behind an atmosphere of acrimony.

Forthright club president Rocco Commisso has not only maligned the machinations behind Vlahovic’s switch to one of his club’s bitterest rivals, but also turned on a discontented fanbase which wanted their centre-forward to leave for anywhere but Turin. All of which leaves a tall task for Italiano to keep his team’s top-six push on track.

Though they were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Cagliari in their most recent fixture, Fiorentina had previously won back-to-back matches and scored 11 times in the process – staying in touch with their fellow contenders for Europe and also progressing in the Coppa Italia.

Their only other outing since the winter break saw them beaten 4-0 at mid-table Torino though; confirming Italiano’s outfit as being as unpredictable as they are entertaining.

Even so, a clear trend has appeared in their results so far, as the Viola have underwhelmed away from home, but they approach Saturday’s game with the fourth-best home record throughout Serie A – picking up seven wins from their 11 games in Florence to date.

A much more serene transfer window slid shut at Lazio on January 31, and head coach Maurizio Sarri will be hoping that such continuity can help his side find more consistency in the closing months of the campaign.

Outscoring all but the Milan clubs this season, the Biancocelesti have generally thrived in attack, but despite starting the year with a typically helter-skelter 3-3 draw with Empoli, their defensive record has begun to improve in recent weeks.

Three successive shut-outs – in victories over Salernitana and Napoli, plus a goalless draw with Atalanta – has aided their quest for a return to European football next term, while ensuring a place in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals – where they meet Milan next week.

Indeed, the Aquile are facing a challenging run of fixtures over the coming days: after visiting Fiorentina, they then tackle the Rossoneri in the cup and meet Porto in the Europa League.

As he prepares for Saturday’s encounter, Sarri has apparently been deterred from signing an extension to the deal penned upon his arrival in the summer due to a lack of new recruits to support top scorer Ciro Immobile, who co-leads the Capocannoniere standings alongside Vlahovic on 17 goals.

However, any discord will have to be muted as the former Napoli boss leads his squad into a potentially make-or-break phase of the season – starting by seeking a double over the Viola, following October’s 1-0 win in Rome.

Fiorentina Serie A form:
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Fiorentina form (all competitions):
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Lazio Serie A form:
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Lazio form (all competitions):
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We say: Fiorentina 1-2 Lazio
The fallout from recent events at the Franchi – plus the need to observe a settling period for their new-look front line – could mean that Fiorentina are caught short in an absorbing encounter between two progressive teams.

Though no major signings have been made, Lazio can at least name a settled side – including the likeliest matchwinner: the in-form Immobile.

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