Udinese's Iaquinta and Fiorentina's Toni have made outstanding starts to the season, but with fierce competition for places in the Italy squad they know they need to carry on scoring throughout the campaign. Iaquinta hit a hat-trick on his UEFA Champions League debut on Wednesday as Udinese defeated Greek side Panathinaikos FC 3-0. Toni also has a recent treble to his name, having registered three of the Azzurri's goals in their 4-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying win in Belarus. In addition, he has been on target in Fiorentina's two league games this term.
Both centre-forwards are classic No9s, yet have different qualities. The 28-year-old Toni is more the traditional target man, powerful in the air and inside the penalty area, while the 25-year-old Iaquinta's height disguises the fact he is lightning quick and possesses a deft touch. With AS Livorno Calcio's Cristiano Lucarelli and the AC Milan duo Alberto Gilardino and Christian Vieri also available, national-team coach Marcello Lippi has a number of physical strikers to lead his line, where previously Italy's forwards came in smaller packages.
Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Baggio, Enrico Chiesa, Giuseppe Signori and Alessandro Del Piero were, or are, forwards reliant on skill and movement, rather than physical presence, but Lippi has appeared willing to pair two big men together. Indeed, Iaquinta has said he does not consider Toni a rival for the Azzurri slot as they could play alongside each other.
"I don't see any reason why not. Yes, we are both tall but we have different characteristics. I have played in the past behind a main striker and I can operate in that slightly deeper role as well as right up front," he said, after his headline-grabbing display on Matchday 1.
Sunday's game promises to be a fascinating encounter between two of Serie A's more ambitious clubs. Udinese have started well with two wins from two including last week's impressive victory at AS Roma. Fiorentina beat UC Sampdoria on the opening day before drawing 2-2 at FC Messina Peloro where they lost a two-goal lead.
The Florence side only avoided relegation on the final day of last term, but have since made several personnel changes and, under new coach Cesare Prandelli, look a more competitive unit. One of the new faces is midfielder Stefano Fiore who made his name with Udinese before moving to S.S. Lazio then Valencia CF.
Juventus on form
Champions Juventus FC, along with Udinese and Livorno, have a 100 per cent record and should extend that run when they host promoted Ascoli Calcio 1898. AC Milan have a tougher test at Sampdoria.
©Reuters 1998-2010. All rights reserved.