Separated by only three points in the Serie A standings with three games left to play, Fiorentina and Roma convene for a crucial clash at Stadio Artemio Franchi on Monday.
While the visitors have won each of the last five league meetings with their Tuscan hosts, the Europa Conference League finalists cannot afford to falter if they are to enjoy another continental campaign next term.
After top scorer Tammy Abraham again proved the decisive figure for Roma, this time in their Conference League semi-final against Leicester City, the capital club are set for a first European final since 1991, where they will face Feyenoord later this month.
The England striker’s first-half header at Stadio Olimpico last week was enough to see the Giallorossi through to the competition’s inaugural final, after the first leg had finished 1-1.
Before minds turn to Tirana, where coach Jose Mourinho will aim to add a fifth European title to his already impressive CV (he is already the first manager to reach UEFA finals with four different clubs) there is still some serious business to attend to in Serie A.
Winless in their last three league matches, following last weekend’s goalless draw at home to Bologna, Roma stand on the brink of going four in a row without victory for the first time this season – at perhaps the worst possible time.
Nevertheless, a defeat and two draws from their most recent domestic outings still sees them occupying a top-six position with only three rounds remaining – even if Atalanta, arch-rivals Lazio and Monday night’s opponents are also pushing hard to secure Europa League qualification.
Before they travel to the Tuscan capital, looking to do the double over Fiorentina this term, the Giallorossi have lost only one of their last nine league games in Florence; and a total of six wins and two draws during that time certainly gives them the edge based on precedent.
Having made up ground thanks to some excellent form during most of March and April, the Viola trail their Roman rivals by three points in the table after defeat at Milan last week got May off to a miserable start.
Fiorentina have now lost each of their last three Serie A games, and have not been beaten four times on the bounce since late 2019, so will be keen to halt a worrying decline since slipping out of the Coppa Italia last month.
Missing out in the semi-final to Juventus started their current streak of four straight defeats in all competitions, which also includes a 4-0 reverse to Udinese in their last game at the Franchi.
Despite such recent setbacks, Vincenzo Italiano’s attractive team still possess the third-best home record in Serie A this season, having accumulated 35 points from 17 matches – only fewer than Scudetto contenders Milan and Inter.
After securing a place in the Conference League final only a few days ago, Jose Mourinho is expected to make some rare changes to his Roma starting XI on Monday, with Marash Kumbulla, Matias Vina and Jordan Veretout all tipped to play a part.
The latter made 69 Serie A appearances for Fiorentina, and has scored four times against them for his current club following a brace in the sides’ last encounter. The Frenchman is likely to replace Sergio Oliveira in midfield for the visitors, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles could feature on the flank.
With a single strike this week, Tammy Abraham – sitting on 15 league goals – would record his best goal tally in a top-flight campaign and level Gerry Hitchens (16 goals for Inter in 1961-62) as the highest-scoring English player in a Serie A season. He could be joined up front by Ghanaian rookie Felix Afena-Gyan, who hopes to deputise for Nicolo Zaniolo.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano has an almost full squad available to him for Roma’s visit, with long-term absentee Gaetano Castrovilli the lone exception.
Lucas Torreira is expected to regain his place in the home side’s engine room, so Sofyan Amrabat could make way.
Castrovilli’s recent knee injury allows Alfred Duncan and Youssef Maleh to contend for another start in Italiano’s midfield trio, as part of a familiar 4-3-3 formation.
Fiorentina possible starting lineup:
Terracciano; Venuti, Milenkovic, Igor, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Torreira, Duncan; Gonzalez, Cabral, Saponara
Roma possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Kumbulla; Maitland-Niles, Cristante, Veretout, Vina; Pellegrini; Afena-Gyan, Abraham