Football: Italian Preview

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FIORENTINA, WHO took Serie A by storm early in the season but have slipped to third place behind Lazio, entertain second-placed Parma live on Channel 4 tomorrow in a game both sides need to win to keep their scudetto hopes alive.

Fiorentina have been a revelation this term. Giovanni Trapattoni, their coach, has sorted out their defence, allowing La Viola to exploit the awesome goal threat that "the angel" Gabriel Batistuta, their phenomenal Argentinian centre-forward poses. But Batistuta, top scorer in Serie A with a sensational 18 league goals, injured a knee recently. In their three games without "Batigol," Fiorentina have looked impotent, drawing two and losing one. Moreno Torricelli, a defender, scored their only goal in those games.

Batistuta has resumed training, but is unlikely to start, while the Brazilian striker Edmundo has a badly-bruised chest so the Belgian midfielder Luis Oliveira may play up front. The midfielder Christian Amoroso returns but the defender Pasquale Padalino is doubtful.

The "purple princes" are against it for Parma have an awesome array of talent this term. Adopting an attacking 3-4-3 formation under Alberto Malesani, their coach, Parma have been terrifying at times. They have strength from back to front with Gianluigi Buffon in goal, French World Cup winner Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro in their back three, Diego Fuser and Dino Baggio in midfield, and a strike force which perms three from four out of Enrico Chiesa, Faustino Asprilla, the ex-Newcastle Colombian, and Hernan Crespo and Abel Balbo, Batistuta's Argentinian understudies. But, best of all, sitting in behind the front three is Juan Sebastian Veron, the superb Argentinian playmaker.

Parma come into this game following a 2-1 defeat at Bordeaux in the first- leg of their Uefa Cup quarter-final tie on Tuesday, a tie in which Malesani controversially rested players with this game - for which the injured French international midfielder Alain Boghossian may be replaced by Stefano Fiore - in mind.

Tomorrow: Bari v Internazionale; Bologna v Venezia; Cagliari v Vicenza; Fiorentina v Parma; Lazio v Salernitana; Milan v Piacenza; Perugia v Empoli; Udinese v Roma. Tomorrow night: Sampdoria v Juventus.