Fiorentina vs. AC Milan: Key Battles to Watch in Serie A
Milan face Fiorentina in the biggest game left this season to decide who will snatch the last Champions League place.
The Viola need to win this game to cut the gap between the two sides to three points, while a draw or a Rossoneri win will all but decide who will represent Italy in next season's Champions League, even if the order is yet to be known.
Vincenzo Montella has got a new tune out of his side in recent weeks, experimenting with a back four over the tried and tested 3-5-2.
It could come into play again against Milan's potent attacking trident. Otherwise, the Rossoneri might have a mismatch in the wide areas with Stephan El Shaarawy and M'Baye Niang.
There will be explosive battles all across the field, and here are three to keep an eye on in particular.
Juan Cuadrado vs. Stephan El Shaarawy
This might not be a direct battle if Vincenzo Montella decides to be a little more adventurous and push Juan Cuadrado into the final third of a 4-3-3.
However, Cuadrado will certainly be required to drop back at times, if not to help Nenad Tomovic when the Viola lose possession.
El Shaarawy's willingness to hug the touch line when waiting for the ball will tempt Tomovic—whether the Serbian plays on the right side of the three centre-backs or at right-back in a 4-3-3—into coming out wide to press "Il Faraone," or Montella will summon Cuadrado to get close to Milan's young sensation.
The Colombian's dynamism could nullify El Shaarawy's tendency to knock and run in behind his marker, so get ready to witness a pivotal battle that could prove key to the Viola's quest to shut out the Rossoneri.
Stevan Jovetic vs. Massimo Ambrosini
Stevan Jovetic has recently discovered some of his best form for the Viola, which ultimately makes the difference between Fiorentina being a good side and an excellent outfit.
The Montenegrin enjoys dropping into the pocket of space in between the back four and the midfield, which leads me to believe that Massimo Ambrosini will be tasked with shadowing the 23-year-old.
Jovetic was doing some differential training in the week and had been considered a doubt, but Vincenzo Montella has named him in his squad and given the magnitude of the game, I expect Jojo to start this one.
Ambrosini has been used sparingly this season by Massimiliano Allegri, so Ambrosini will relish this opportunity in what will be a massive game.
Ambrosini has proved to be up to the challenge, even at the age of 35 years old, bossing the first leg between in the Champions League first leg against Barcelona.
However, Jovetic's movement is so tricky to pick up, which makes this a battle for the ages. Can Ambrosini continue to prove that he belongs at this level?
Stefan Savic vs. Mario Balotelli
Not a great deal was expected of Stefan Savic when he arrived and his place in the lineup was far from assured, but he has proven himself quickly and adapted well to Italian football.
Facundo Roncaglia made an excellent start to life in Italy, but the former Boca defender lost his place in the side to Nenad Tomovic recently and with Gonzalo Rodriguez suspended here, Savic will take on extra responsibility.
Mario Balotelli has been one of the best strikers in Europe since he signed for Milan, so it will be Savic's biggest test of his career in all likelihood and he will need to be at his best to deny "Super Mario" from adding to his goal tally in a Rossoneri jersey.
The former City striker is capable of fending off touch-tight marking with his fine control and also blowing the opposition away, if he is afforded time and space to dart toward goal and take aim from distance.
Savic needs to find the right balance and continue to organise his defence as magnificently as he has done up until this point in the season. Balotelli could conjure up something special if he is to leave a mark on this huge game.
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