Fiorentina will have to overcome the absence of suspended top scorer Alberto Gilardino when they host UEFA Champions League Group E favourites Liverpool at the Stadio Franchi on Tuesday.
The Tuscans desperately need to win this match to thrust themselves back into qualification contention having lost their opener 1-0 in Lyon. Gilardino was sent-off in that match and will miss this encounter, proving a significant blow for the hosts as he is one of their most experienced players.
Gilardino has actually won the UEFA Champions League before as he was part of the AC Milan team that beat Liverpool 2-1 to win the 2007 trophy, with the striker replacing match-winner Filippo Inzaghi two minutes from time. Despite this handicap, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli insists he is not heading into the match with a defeatist attitude.
"We have to approach this match with enthusiasm and desire, there's no way we'll begin a beaten team," he said. History is not on Fiorentina's side, though, despite never having lost at home to an English side nor conceded a goal. Their last victory in the UEFA Champions League group stages came back in March 2000 and last season they failed to make it out of their pool, which also included Lyon.
Reds hit form
Liverpool, meanwhile, have not tasted defeat nor conceded a goal in their last four visits to Italian teams and those have been quite recent including a 1-0 win away to Inter Milan two seasons ago. They can also count on the prolific Fernando Torres, a hat-trick hero against Hull at the weekend.
"I think he can do better," said Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez. "The last three games he has played well and was improving his mentality, his work rate. But the main thing is his mentality. When I talk about Fernando I say that he is keen to learn, that's the main thing. That means he will improve, how much he improves is down to him.
"When you think about the money we were spending when we signed him, £20 million was a massive figure for us. But we thought it was a really good figure and the main reason we decided to bring him here was his quality, his age, his potential and the future he has. We had confidence he would get better and we're really pleased now. But he can improve."
One player Fiorentina will be relying on to help keep Liverpool and Torres at bay is French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey who has long been regarded as one of the best stoppers in Serie A. Such is his growing stature that there have been recent rumours he could be tempted away from Florence. But Frey insists he is happy in Tuscany.
"Fiorentina are actually a big club with great players. At Livorno (a 1-0 victory on Saturday) we played really well, we won at a difficult ground," he said. "Personally I feel good in Florence and when you feel good it's difficult to leave. I've never felt as good as I do in this city."
Liverpool come into this game after a disappointing performance in the 1-0 home victory over Hungarian minnows Debrecen two weeks ago. However, they have shown signs of improvement in the league recently, hitting six goals in the romp against Hull City, taking them to their best ever total of 22 goals after seven Premier League games.
They sit in the top four in the league but so too do Fiorentina in Italy after four wins and a draw in their first six matches. They have not been prolific in front of goal but have looked solid at the back and certainly won't be rolling over like Hull did.