Football: Advantage for Fiorentina

A Barcelona squad that is arguably the strongest in Europe will be stretched to the limits for tonight's first leg of their European Cup- Winners' Cup semi-final against Italy's Fiorentina. Barcelona will be without six players, four of them first choices.

Barcelona warmed up for the game by thrashing Sporting Gijon 4-0 over the weekend and were boosted by the news that both their main rivals for second place in the Spanish League and the leaders, Real Madrid, were held to draws.

But seven points still separate Barcelona from their arch-rivals and their coach Bobby Robson knows that his main chance of serving out the second year of his contract lies in taking a European title.

Barcelona won the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1979, 1982 and 1989 but Fiorentina are far from overawed. Their Argentinian striker Gabriel Batistuta said: "I've never felt inferior to anyone. Sure, the Catalan side has 22 great players and lots of international experience but the real Fiorentina can beat any side."

The Fiorentina coach, Claudio Ranieri, believes it would be a major tactical error for his side to concentrate all their attention on Barcelona's Brazilian striker, Ronaldo.

''That would be equivalent to allowing a free hand to all the other nine players, all equally useful," he said.

Fiorentina, who were unlucky in a 0-0 draw with Internazionale on Saturday, are ninth in Serie A, 17 points behind the league leaders, Juventus.

That lowly league standing reflects the extent to which the Florence club have based their whole season on their European campaign. They will be handicapped by the absence of two first-choice players. The former Everton winger Andrei Kanchelskis is cup-tied while the former Arsenal midfielder Stefan Schwarz is suspended.

Although Ranieri was giving nothing away about his plans, he may be tempted to play a cautious 4-5-1 formation to compensate for the loss of Schwarz's covering work and the extra width added by Kanchelskis.

Sandro Cois, Emiliano Bigica, Anselmo Robbiati and the Brazilian Luis Oliveira could all line up in midfield alongside Rui Costa, leaving Batistuta on his own up front.

As for Ronaldo, he may be marked in defence by Lorenzo Amoruso and in midfield by Cois. Robson will be without the key midfielders Ivan de la Pena and Josep Guardiola, both of whom are suspended.

Guardiola and De la Pena tend to supply the ideas, while injuries have put paid to the two Barcelona men best known for their commitment and pace - the overlapping defender Sergi and the utility man Luis Enrique.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?