Evening Italian football fans. Welcome to Sports Mole
's coverage of a big night for Fiorentina as they chase an unlikely place in next season's Champions League. Vincenzo Montella
's side travel to Atalanta tonight knowing that victory is absolutely imperative if they are to qualify for Europe next season.
They will face an Atalanta side still flying after a quite incredible win at the San Siro last weekend. Trailing 4-1 to Inter Milan in the second half a late hat-trick from German Denis
saw the visitors record a memorable 4-3 victory to all but guarantee another season in Serie A.
The pressure is off for Stefano Colantuono
's improving side tonight, with a gap of 10 points now between them in 13th and the relegation zone. La Viola cannot say the same and know failure to earn all three points tonight will probably see them fall out of the European places within 24 hours.
BREAKING TEAM NEWS! We have just received word on the starting XI's at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, with Fiorentina forced into a string of changes due to injury and suspension. A full look at the lineups will follow in just a few moments.
ATALANTA: Consigli, Stendardo, Lucchini, Scaloni, Del Grosso, Radovanovic, Biondini, Bonaventura, Livaja, Brienza, Denis
Viviano, Rodriguez, Roncaglia, Compper, Pasqual, Sissoko, Pizarro, Borja Valero
, Aquilani, Cuadrado, El Hamdaoui
It's very much a case of where to start for Fiorentina, with Montella forced into a whole host of changes due to injury and suspension. Most notably Mounir El Hamdaoui gets a rare start in attack with Stevan Jovetic
and Luca Toni
out through injury.
Exciting winger Adem Ljajic
surprisingly has to settle for a place on the bench tonight, with unconfirmed stories of him suffering a minor muscle injury in training this week. La Viola captain Manuel Pasqual plays despite carrying a knock, but joins a lengthy list of absentees after being controversially dismissed against AC Milan last weekend.
Atalanta must also cope with suspensions and injuries, with Cristian Raimondi, Carlos Carmona
and Luca Cigarini all banned tonight. Riccardo Cazzola misses out with an injury problem, but Maxi Morales is surprisingly on the bench after recovering from a hip injury.
Marko Livaja has got the nod to form a three-man attack with in-form duo German Denis
and Giacomo Bonaventura
this evening. Denis was nothing short of superb last week against Inter, while Bonaventura has attracted the attention of big European clubs thanks to an impressive campaign. Tonight's opponents Fiorentina have been heavily linked with the 23-year-old, but will hope he fails to fire tonight.
The visitors should take great heart from their spirited comeback against Milan last weekend. Trailing 2-0 and down to 10 men La Viola fought back to earn a point, courtesy of a late penalty from David Pizarro
. Montella will be urging his side to start tonight's match with the same urgency that got them a vital point last against the Rossoneri.
Just to clarify how important a win is for Fiorentina tonight, a win would take them three points behind AC Milan in the final Champions League place. Just four points separates them in fourth place from Roma in seventh, so the race for European football will very much take centre stage in Serie A as we head towards the final few matches.
PREDICTION! With all the pressure on a patched-up Fiorentina this evening I think there is a very good chance Atalanta will pick up a positive result this evening. Look for Denis to continue his recent goalscoring record in a 1-1 draw that leaves La Viola scrambling to keep their Champions League chase alive.
A quick word before we get underway at Atalanta that both sides will observe a minute's silence shortly in memory of Piermario Morosini, the former youth-team player at Atalanta who collapsed and died during a Serie B match last year.
A packed stadium in Bergamo greets the two players as they head out onto the pitch. Fiorentina have brought a large away contingent with them this evening, which is huge plus given their shocking recent away form. Montella's side have lost five of their last six on the road, can they break that barren run this evening?
Fiorentina get the match underway in a changed all-white strip. The quickly concede possession under little pressure, with Atalanta sensibly knocking back to the returning Consigli in goal. Aquilani is playing a more advanced role for the visitors tonight behind El Hamdaoui.
Atalanta drive down the right-hand side through Denis, who battles bast two players before attempting a neat exchange with Brienza. He is just stopped from meeting the return by Pasqual, who stays calm in the penalty area to find safety with a long clearance.
Both sides are still looking for a prolonged spell of possession in the early stages. Fiorentina break forward through Borja Valero
, who finds space in the opposition half to pick out Pasqual in a wide position. His cross into the penalty area falls short and allows the home side to clear with authority.
The visitors are just starting to find their feet as Sissoko and Valero swap passes in the final third before Del Grosso does well to intercept and win a free kick. Atalanta smash it forward in search of Bonaventura, who is just stopped from meeting the pass by a catch from Viviano.
Atalanta send a dangerous cross into the penalty area through Scaloni, who has time and space but fails to find a black and blue shirt in the box. Fiorentina uncharacteristically give away possession in midfield soon after, but Sissoko is on hand to stop the home side breaking forward.
SAVE! Denis has the first effort of note on goal, meeting a great curling cross from Bonaventura to head towards goal. Viviano reads his intentions quickly and dives to make a strong save at his near post, catching impressively. Atalanta are growing in confidence as the match starts to open up after a cagey first 10 minutes.
Fiorentina are yet to settle in possession, with Montella roaming on the touchline shouting instructions to his players. The visitors press high but concede a cheap free kick as Pizarro tangles with Livaja.
A clever touch from Aquilani looks to get Fiorentina into the final third, with Valero winning a dangerous free kick after being brought down by Radovanovic. A host of players want to take the set piece from 20 yards but it looks like Pasqual has won the battle.
Pasqual puts plenty of curl and power on his effort but the shot lacks control and sails wide of the near post. Fiorentina are quick to win back possession and attack down the left through El Hamdaoui, who wins a throw deep inside the final third.
Valero is next to put too much power behind a poor pass but in fairness he had only El Hamdaoui to aim for. The midfielder is then caught by Radovanovic as the visitors apply more pressure in the opposition half through Cuadrado.
Atalanta venture forward at the other end as Bonaventura links up with Del Grosso down the left-hand side. Fiorentina clear quickly and break through Cuadrado, who is tackled perfectly by a strong covering challenge from Biondini.
SHOT! A lovely Atalanta counter sees Biondini combine with Livaja to send a precise cross towards Denis at the far post. He is unmarked and sends an acrobatic effort towards goal, which is saved and scrambled clear at the second time of asking by Viviano.
YELLOW CARD! Sissoko picks up a needless booking after sliding in with his studs showing in a challenge just beyond the halfway line. That puts the Fiorentina mad under pressure to stay disciplined and not risk further punishment with more than 70 minutes still to play.
Bonaventura drives down the right and wins a corner for the home side, which sees Lucchini send a free header straight to a static Viviano. That was a real opportunity wasted for Atalanta to break the deadlock.
Fiorentina launch a quick counter at the other end through Valero, who drives to the byline but fails to pick out a white shirt in the penalty area. Sissoko is quick to meet a botched clearance but can only send a shocking effort well wide after making poor contact on the volley.
Aquilani does well to press Scaloni in the final third but just when the full-back looks to be in trouble concedes a silly foul. More composure is required from both sides for a scrappy match to come alive.
Bonaventura shows initiative to break free out wide, only to see his cutback cleared with relative ease by Rodriguez. Atalanta attack again through the pacy winger, but he is just unable to meet an overhit pass from Biondini.
Cuardao continues a very poor first half out wide by sending an aimless floated cross into the penalty area. The home side are under no pressure and break clear on the right, only for Brienza to get his first touch wrong out wide. Both sides are struggling for fluency in tight clash at present.
Bonaventura finds space again out wide and seeks to meet a late run from Livaja with a curling cross. His delivery is a touch short and allows La Viola to regain possession. Sissoko strides forward and finds El Hamdaoui, who sends a clever flick just long in search of a diagonal run from Aquilani. More frustration at both ends.
Livaja and Denis link up in the final third, but the latter's attempts to flick Bonaventura's cross towards goal see the forward fail to make any contact. Atalanta look the more likely before the break, thanks largely to the clever movement of their front three.
SHOT! Fiorentina nearly take the lead against the run of play following a long ball forward from Pizarro. His diagonal meets a forward run from Aquilani, who does well to beat the offside trap and control in the penalty area. Surrounded by two defenders he eventually turns and sends a tame low shot straight to Consigli, who gratefully catches as the home side look furiously towards the linesman.
Aquilani tests Consigli again just a minute later, sending a glancing header towards the near post. Once again his effort lacks power by finally we have successive signs of life from Fiorentina in the final third.
HALF-TIME Atalanta 0-0 Fiorentina
A frustrating 45 minutes draws to a close with Fiorentina in possession. Atalanta probably just about shaded a tight first period but in truth neither side looked like breaking the deadlock in scrappy affair.
Fiorentina are definitely missing the physical presence and skill of Jovetic in attack. El Hamdaoui has looked isolated in attack and lacks the stature to link play, choosing to prefer dropping deep and probing from wide areas. Aquilani and Pizarro showed more purpose just before the break and need to continue that form after the break for Montella's men.
La Viola are definitely more desperate to win and will surely look to their bench for inspiration if things don't get better after the interval. Adem Ljajic
looks the most likely option but surely would have started if fully fit.
Atalanta have shown flashes of quality on the counter, with Bonaventura and Denis looking lively in attack. Breinza has been largely ineffective down the other flank, but the home side will look to exploit space on both wings in the second half.
Denis came closest to breaking the deadlock and scoring his fourth goal in two matches early on. His glancing header was well placed but probably lacked the pace and power to deceive Viviano at his near post. 'The Tank' will look for more quality service from Bonaventura to open the scoring when play resumes.
As things stand Fiorentina would move clear in fourth place by picking up a point and go five behind AC Milan just above them. With every other European contender yet to play this weekend surely a draw tonight will not be good enough for Montella's side to keep their European chase alive. Hopefully their urgency to win the match will open things up when the second half begins in just a few moments.
Fiorentina are slightly late to return after the interval but eventually Atalanta get us back underway. The home side quickly look for a long diagonal pass towards Denis but are unable to pick out their lone striker.
Both sides have resisted the temptation to make changes at the interval, which is a surprise given the poor state of affairs before the break. Biondini helps settle things down for Atalanta in midfield as they keep possession deep in their own half.
SUBSTITUTION: Atalanta have made the strange decision to replace Brienza just five minutes after half-time. Luigi Giorgi comes on and takes up an advanced position on the left-hand side.
SHOT! Cuadrado finally produces something productive out wide, running onto a long pass and cutting the ball inside to Sissoko with an assured pass. The midfielder curls an effort towards the top corner which requires a strong save from Consigli.
Fiorentina have definitely changed shape during the break, opting to switch from a three-man defence to a back four. Pizarro gets the visitors into trouble by attempting to retain possession in his own penalty area, conceding a corner kick as a result.
The visitors just about clear the corner kick following a lengthy goalmouth scramble. At the other Aquilani attempts to meet a long diagonal pass in his new position on the left-wing, but just lacks the pace to stop the pass drifting out for a goal kick.
Del Grosso smashes into Cuadrado without winning the ball and is lucky not to receive a yellow card for his late lunge. Aquilani, Sissoko and Valero all enjoy touches in the final third as Fiorentina probe without any conviction just outside the penalty area.
Fiorentina finally decide to make changes in attack. Ljajic has scored five in his last seven and comes on in place of Aquilani, who looks fairly shocked to be withdrawn. Marcelo Larrondo
is also on in place of El Hamdaoui, who proved largely ineffective on a rare start in attack.
PENALTY TO FIORENTINA! Ljajic has had an immediate impact as his flick hits Stendardo on the arm inside the box. The referee pauses for a moment before awarding a spot kick to the visitors, which Pizarro will take.
GOAL! Atalanta 0-1 Fiorentina (Pizarro)
Pizarro steps up to send Consigli the wrong way with a superb penalty into the far corner. That was La Viola's 10th spot kick of the campaign and their third in just two matches. In a scrappy encounter that strike may well prove decisive for the visitors.
Fiorentina have seized control of possession and break into the penalty area once more as Valero picks out Cuadrado's dart inside. The winger's first touch is heavy and forces him to cross towards Ljajic, but he is unable to meet a heavy delivery as Atalanta scramble clear.
SHOT! Pizarro picks out Sissoko with a precise pass into the final third. The midfielder shoots first time with power and bends a brilliant effort just beyond the far post. Fiorentina now look dominant as Atalanta struggle to regain possession.
The visitors have another strong penalty shout for handball against Stendardo. He definitely made contact to clear a clever flick from from Ljajic but was very close to the ball, which perhaps persuaded the referee not to take any action.
GOAL! Atalanta 0-2 Fiorentina (Larrondo)
Marcelo Larrondo comes off the bench to score with a thunderous drive into the top corner. The Argentine found space and from a tight angle gave Consigli no chance by smashing just underneath the crossbar from close range. That strike should be enough for La Viola to earn a crucial three points.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Both sides make changes almost immediately after the second goal for very different reasons. Fiorentina decide Sissoko is a risk late on with a yellow card and swap the midfielder for Migliaccio. Atalanta make two changes in as many minutes to introduce Morales and Parra. Both teams have now made all three subs as Atalanta desperately search for a way back into the match.
YELLOW CARDS! Both teams pick up a booking, but Larrondo's horrible late lunge on Bonaventura is lucky not to earn further punishment. Livaja was also cautioned just before being replaced for a poorly-timed tackle on Valero.
Fiorentina choose to take the sting out of any Atalanta revival by keeping possession deep in the final third. Pasqual decides to stay down in the far corner after clashing with Scaloni. The captain is suggesting he was kicked in the chest and replays seem to suggest he was accurate, but the referee decides not to take any further action.
SHOT! Ljajic bursts beyond his marker and into the penalty area with purpose. The forward elects to shoot rather than pass to two Fiorentina players in the penalty area and forces Consigli to turn behind from a tight angle.
MISS! Parra comes within inches of setting up a frantic finale at the other end. His downward header is well controlled but drifts just beyond the near post as the visitors survive a late scare.
SHOT! Atalanta keep up the pressure by winning a corner kick, but La Viola clear with authority and quickly break in numbers at the other end. Ljajic drives towards goal and once again decides to shoot, but this time his low strike drifts agonisingly wide of the near post.
RED CARD! Atalanta's captain Denis has been sent off after flying into a silly challenge on Pizarro with studs high. The tackle was late and looks like an intentional trip. The home side protest furiously but will now be without their skipper for three Serie A matches.
That sending off could have huge implications for Atalanta on their fight for survival, with Denis now out suspended for the foreseeable future. Fiorentina waste the final few seconds in the corner flag as Ljajic races onto a forward pass from Valero.
FULL-TIME Atalanta 0-2 Fiorentina
A fine second-half response from La Viola has earned Vincenzo Montella's side a vital victory in their push for Champions League qualification.
That just about does it for Sports Mole's first live text commentary from Serie A this weekend. Be sure to join us again tomorrow night as Napoli take on AC Milan at the San Siro. Goodnight!