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Gilardino and Mutu

Fiorentina hopes rest on potent duo

To the untrained eye, Alberto Gilardino might have appeared nervous at the news conference ahead of Bayern’s meeting with Fiorentina on Tuesday evening. The Italian striker repeatedly burst into a torrent of speech even before the official interpreter had started translating the questions put by newsmen, a breach of the unspoken etiquette prevailing on official UEFA occasions. Is Signor Gilardino slightly fearful of the home side’s enviable reputation at the Allianz Arena?

The truth is undoubtedly a little different. The 26-year-old is Fiorentina’s most experienced player with 28 Champions League appearances already under his belt. Most of his team-mates are tasting life in Europe’s top club contest for the first time, but Gilardino lifted the trophy with AC Milan in 2007. Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli is expecting his striker to carry the fight to Bayern on Tuesday. “Alberto simply has the right attitude,” the 51-year-old commented. The pair worked successfully together at AC Parma. Prandelli has twice been named Italy’s coach of the year (05/06, 06/07), as Fiorentina boss on both occasions.

Prandelli: Most important match

Gilardino’s impatience at the news conference probably reflected his desire for hostilities to commence as soon as possible. “We want to cause Bayern as many problems as possible and win the match,” the 2006 World Cup winner confidently declared. “Tomorrow’s match is one of the most important in my coaching career, in one of the world’s finest stadiums,” Prandelli stated, doubtless speaking for many of his players too.

Fiorentina’s solitary Champions League campaign so far was back in 1999-2000, when they finished second in their group behind Barcelona, before losing out to holders Manchester United and eventual finalists Valencia in the second group stage. Last season, the Italians emulated Bayern in reaching the UEFA Cup semi-finals, but they were absent from the European scene for five years previously.

Mutu declared fit

Prandelli expressed delight at the return to fitness of Gilardino’s strike partner Adrian Mutu. “Thankfully, Adrian can probably play,” the coach reported. The Romanian sat out a 3-0 victory over Reggina Calcio at the weekend with a knee problem. “We’ve not played together very often so far, but I hope we’ll achieve a lot together in the future,” Gilardino commented.

Mutu was the Tuscan side’s leading scorer last term, but summer signing Gilardino has netted five of Fiorentina’s eight league goals this season, and both their goals in Group F. In the summer qualifying meeting with Slavia Prague, both strikers hit the target in a 2-0 return leg win. “Do you think you and Adrian are one of the best strike pairings in the world?” a journalist asked Gilardino on Monday. The player smiled knowingly – while waiting for the interpreter to finish his job on this occasion.