Villarreal CF will be bristling with confidence when they welcome ACF Fiorentina to the Madrigal Stadium for their opening UEFA Cup Group C fixture after enjoying a fine start to their Primera División campaign.
Villarreal stand second in the Spanish top flight, just one point behind leaders Real Madrid CF and on a high after beating FC Barcelona 3-1 at home on Saturday. Defender Joan Capdevila is refusing to get carried away with that result, however, as he prepares for a testing night against the Serie A outfit. "We can't think of ourselves as the best because we beat Barça," Capdevila warned. "You have to be very careful in football when you're doing well because when the highs come, a blow usually follows."
Manuel Pellegrini's side qualified for the group stage after a 6-1 aggregate win against FC BATE Borisov and will be further comforted by a formidable home record against Italian clubs since their European debut in 2002/03. A 2-0 victory against Torino FC that season has been followed by wins against Brescia Calcio (2-0), AS Roma (2-0) and FC Internazionale Milano (1-0).
Midfielder Rubén Garcia is confident of Villarreal extending that positive run on Thursday. "I hope we can beat them because we're very motivated after victory against Barcelona," Garcia said. "Despite Fiorentina being a strong team with good players, I don't think they're on the same level as Barça. We want to do things right and go a long way in this competition."
However, with his side still unbeaten in all competitions this season, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli is sure that the Viola can earn a good result without changing their usual attacking approach. "We always try to play good football and I think we are facing a similar side in this sense," he said. "Villarreal are a very dangerous side but I ask my players to be calm and to play without thinking too much about the result."
The Spanish club's chances have been further boosted by the returns of Giuseppe Rossi, Josemi and Josico, although Pellegrini is without defender Gonzalo Rodríguez who has damaged knee ligaments, while Juan Román Riquelme is also sidelined. Meanwhile, Prandelli decided to leave Riccardo Montolivo and Franco Semioli in Florence to give the two midfielders some rest after a busy schedule. "They had played with the national team the previous week and it's not easy to play every third day," he explained.
He added: "I will make some changes in the usual starting line-up considering this factor. Players like [Christian] Vieri and [Martin] Jørgensen can give us an important contribution in term of experience." Vieri and Jørgensen should start in attack alongside Adrian Mutu, while Fabio Liverani, Marco Donadel and Zdravko Kuzmanović should play in midfield as Massimo Gobbi and Mario Alberto Santana are injured.
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