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Anteprima: Previewing the game between the women of Milan and Fiorentina

AS Roma v AC Milan - Serie A Women’s Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Milan will take on Fiorentina on Saturday, November 2nd, at 14:30 CET (9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST). The match will be important for several reasons, chief among them being that this will most likely be the Rossonere’s toughest test to date, as they’ll be taking on last season’s Serie A runners-up, and the only Italian team that’s seeded in the UWCL.

The Past:

AC Milan and Fiorentina have met twice in before. Milan won the first encounter between the two sides, and managed to emerge from that hard fought battle as the victors after they beat the Viola 3-2. The Viola, on the other hand, won the second encounter, and they did so rather emphatically. They were the resounding victors of the second match as they smashed Milan 4-0.

The Present:

Milan are currently on top of the Serie A table. They are the joint capoliste with Juventus, and both teams have 12 points each. Milan, however, is in first place, thanks to their 12+ goal differential.

They’ve won all four of their previous matches, and have only conceded two goals along the way, which means they’ve been able to find the ideal combination of both defense and attack, and they’ll definitely need a balance of both when the take on the Viola this Saturday.

Fiorentina, on the other hand, are fourth on the table. Their form has suffered a lot lately, mainly due to injuries. Their best forward, experienced vet and national team stalwart Ilaria Mauro, has been a casualty of this. And just how many injuries has she suffered? A lot many injuries.

Those said injuries (mainly related to her back) prevented Ilaria from being the effective force that she normally is for both La Viola and La Nazionale. The fact of which, means that not only have Fiorentina fans suffered, but fans of Italy have as well, as Italy could really use a striker of Mauro’s caliber to help reduce the current goal deficit we have with Denmark, as both teams attempt to qualify for Euro 2021, while being in the same group.

Antonio Cincotta (Fiorentina’s coach), has still opted to field Ilaria at times, despite the fact that she’s not fully fit. A lack of other options may have forced his hand, and led to her being fielded on the pitch, even though she has yet to fully recover.

It’s also worth noting that Fiorentina began the season by running a rather tough gauntlet, as they began their first competitive match, in what was perhaps the toughest venue to make your seasonal debut in: the Women’s Champions League. If this wasn’t bad enough, they also had to go against current English champions, Arsenal, and lost both legs by an aggregate of 6-0. They say there’s no rest for the weary, and never was this truer than in the case of Fiorentina, as they had to immediately recover from their first leg loss against the Gunners, by playing in the derby against Florentia (and dealing with all the intensity of emotions that a derby can bring), before the blood of their wounds even had time to dry. They won that match 4-2, but subsequently lost their next fixture against Roma 2-0. The Viola also beat Sassuolo 2-1.

The Viola will also be coming off a tough loss against Juventus, where they relinquished the Supercoppa to them after being holders of the trophy two, subsequent seasons. Fiorentina also looked like a shadow of their former selves during that match, as tactically, they seemed to have lacked any ideas and any attempt to build up play was hampered by them repeatedly (and unintentionally) hitting the ball out of bounds. To their credit, they did slowly come into the game and eventually played better during the second half, but it was all for naught, as Andrea Stašková sealed the deal in the 92nd minute, and ensured that Juventus walked away with the only domestic trophy that was missing from their cabinet.

With this in mind, Fiorentina’s mixed form and how demoralized they must be after that Supercoppa loss are advantages that could work in Milan’s favor. After all, there’s no better time to face what would be a rather tough opponent, then after they’ve come off of a disheartening loss, and are currently suffering a dip in form. But you know what they say about wounded animals, and Fiorentina currently has a few, gaping lacerations on their body. There’s no better time for them to lash out, then when their backs are against the wall like this. And there’s no better opponent for them to make a statement against, then against the current Serie A capolista, who just happen to be their opponents on Saturday.

Underestimating an opponent is a dangerous game that shouldn’t be played, and hopefully Milan will realize this. Otherwise, that wounded animal is going to sink its teeth into us, and take us down with it.

AC Milan Women v Fiorentina Women - Serie A
The last time they met
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Alia Guagni. That’s it. That’s the post.

I don’t want to end this post without mentioning Fiorentina’s captain Alia Guagni, and well, just how wonderful she is.

Alia Guagni is the composite Italian defender, distilled into its purest Platonic form. She’s strong, fast, reads the game intelligently, is a good header of the ball, and a great crosser as well.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Alia was voted as the best player in Serie A, for two straight years in a row.

She’s also tall, dark, intense, and completely smoldering too.

Italian Women Supercup Press Conference
I’m just posting this so you’ll all appreciate her as much as I do (Alia Guagni)
Photo by Filippo Alfero - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

And that intensity comes through on the pitch too, as she fights for every ball, and fights with everyone else for it too.

Alia just casually murdering Ludmila
Italia vs Brasile | FIFA

Alia hearkens back to the great Italian defenders of yore, as watching her play brings back calibrated memories of Zambrotta, Facchetti, and of course, Maldini, as those great fullbacks who combined tactical discipline with defensive solidity, while also bombing forward with aplomb and contributing to the attack, as they fought with vigor in order to ensure that their teams got that win. The only difference between all of them of course, is Alia’s gender. But the fact that she is exhibiting all of these traits and displaying them in such a commanding way in the women’s game (and managing to do so at the highest levels as well), is pretty groundbreaking in its own right, and it is nothing short of remarkably enjoyable to watch.

Alia is a talismanic, tour de force, and one who will leave a few casualties in her wake. And if the Rossonere aren’t careful, they just might be her next victims. She is an effective leader who can marshal her troops and lead not only by example, but inspire them to greatness as well. And in one way or another, Milan will have to find a way to contend with that, if they want to win this game.

And just how they do so will be the intriguing part.

How to watch the match:

Serie A has a new deal with the Italian telecommunications' company, TIM, that will allow you to see all of the games of the Serie A women for a measly €5 a month. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available outside of the country (believe me, I’ve tried), but fear not, fellow denizens. The Serie A teams seem to still have control over streaming their own matches, and a few tweets from the official AC Milan accounts seem to indicate that the game will be broadcast on the official AC Milan app this Saturday.

Fiorentina usually stream the games of their women, and you can either catch the match on their Facebook page, or on the Viola Channel.

Either way, Saturday’s encounter is going to be a good one. Let’s just hope that it lives up to expectations, and more importantly, that we manage to walk away from this encounter with all three points. And lord knows just how much we’ll need this.

FBL-WC-2019-WOMEN-MATCH43-ITA-CHN
Capitana and Capitana (Valentina Giacinti and Alia Guagni celebrating after scoring)
Photo credit should read PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images