Fiorentina ready for Czech threat

Serie A side Fiorentina are confident they are ready for the stiff challenge Slavia Prague present ahead of the home leg of their UEFA Champions League final qualifying round tie against the Czech title winners on Tuesday (2045 CET).

"We'll be ready for this important date," Fiorentina's Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo said as he looked forward to the tussle. "We've worked a lot for this objective. Usually in competitions of this type you never feel you are 100 percent, but we'll have to do everything possible to be near to it."

Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli expressed similar sentiments. "Everyone knows what the level of football is in the Czech Republic, something which was also seen at the European championships," he was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency, "but we are getting ready."

The stakes are high for the Florence club, who have spent big on the transfer market in view of an expected return to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League after a eight-year absence.

New faces
Melo, a signing from Spanish side Almeria, is one of a series of major transfers completed during the close season. Fiorentina also bought striker Alberto Gilardino, a member of Italy's 2006 FIFA World Cup™-winning squad, from AC Milan, defenders Gianluca Comotto, Luciano Zauri and Juan Manuel Vargas from Torino, Lazio and Catania respectively and drafted in Argentine midfielder Sergio Almiron on loan from Juventus.

But the most important business they did this summer was to repel a €18 million bid by AS Roma to lure away Romania forward Adrian Mutu. Mutu scored 17 goals in Serie A last season to help Fiorentina finish fourth and beat Milan to Italy's final UEFA Champions League qualification spot.

Their determination to keep him is seen as a signal that they are not limiting their ambitions to making up the numbers in the continent's most prestigious club competition.

Comotto is unavailable for Tuesday because he is still recovering from knee surgery.The hosts will also be without the creative spark of midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, who is part of Italy's Olympic football team.

Fiorentina have won four, drawn one and lost one of their six pre-season friendlies. But it is difficult to gauge their form as those games were against lesser opponents, except for a 3-1 defeat to a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona last month.

Slavia are seeking to return to the group stage of the tournament, after making their debut appearance in it last season. They made a bad start to their domestic title defence, losing 2-1 to Slovan Liberec on the opening day, but they recovered to beat Marila Pribram 1-0 in their second league game of the season on Wednesday. The return leg of the Champions League final qualifying round tie takes place in Prague on 27 August.