Ahead of Sunday's clash with Fiorentina, I caught up with Serie A authority and Viola die-hard Chloe Beresford to find out what we can expect from our guests on Sunday.
RH: First up, for the benefit of our readers that don’t know you, could you tell us a bit about your personal connection with Florence and Fiorentina?
CB: Yes, my great-grandad was a professional footballer for Manchester City. He was a reserve when they won the FA Cup in 1934, but when the squad embarked on a post-season tour of Europe, he had a chance to play as some of the squad were on international duty. There was a match arranged between Fiorentina, who were a relatively new team, and City, just before the World Cup was due to start in Italy. He started the match, scored a goal in a 3-3 draw, and all with the Italian World Cup squad sitting on the sidelines.
My great-grandad never talked about his experiences much and suffered a premature death in 1960, so almost all the information we have is what my family have discovered since. Several years ago, we decided to go to see where my great-grandad had played, as it is the same stadium, and we immediately made some very close friendships with some supporters. The rest, as they say, is history!
RH: Fiorentina are just 1 point ahead of Hellas going into Sunday’s game. Is this how you saw this season panning out (for both Verona and Fiorentina)?
CB: Not really! If I’m honest, I thought Fiorentina would have been doing a little better, considering the new ownership and the players signed in the summer, and I thought that Hellas would be somewhere in the bottom half of the table. It seems like they have been yo-yoing between Serie A and Serie B in recent times, and it’s really hard to break that cycle.
RH: Once again, consistency seems to be a problem for Fiorentina this season. What’s gone well for them this season? And what hasn’t gone to plan? What can we expect from Fiorentina at the Bentegodi on Sunday?
CB: The general play has been really excellent at times this season, but they seem to lack the killer instinct to actually get the three points. Montella’s 3-5-2 worked really well when they secured a 0-0 draw with Juve, but now Fiorentina are really struggling up front. I’m hoping that he’s been working on that during the international break and that we may even see a slight change of system on Sunday. The midfield and the defence are pretty solid, but we are going to be missing two key men in the centre of the park as Castrovilli and Pulgar are ruled out through suspension.
RH: How important is it for Fiorentina to have players of the calibre of Ribéry in the squad? What does he bring to the team (on and off the pitch)?
CB: It’s incredibly important. The supporters put so much pride into supporting their team, and for many years they feel that this hasn’t been matched by the owners, who have penny pinched their way to building squads with unknown players. To see Commisso go in and immediately buy a former Ballon d’Or winner, even at the age of 36, was incredible. I actually wrote about it here if anyone is interested in reading a bit more!
RH: Following the racist abuse directed at Balotelli a few weeks ago, there have been calls from some quarters for Fiorentina to break the “gemellaggio” with Verona. What does the relationship with Verona mean to Fiorentina fans? Will it endure?
CB: I honestly think it will endure. I think many Fiorentina supporters were dismayed by the incident, as I’m sure the majority of Hellas fans were. While there were some calls to break the link, there are too many long-standing personal friendships to simply end it due to the moronic actions of a few.
RH:Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday?
CB: I think Fiorentina may struggle to break Hellas down...I’m going for 1-1.
If you don't already you can follow Chloe at @ChloeJBeresford and subscribe to her Serie A newsletter Calcio by Chloe here.