With their hopes of UEFA Champions League progress in the balance after failing to win any of their first four Group F matches, ACF Fiorentina cannot afford another slip-up at home to Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday night.
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ACF Fiorentina will start Tuesday's Group F game with Olympique Lyonnais knowing only a victory will keep their UEFA Champions League hopes alive.
With Fiorentina lying five points behind group leaders Lyon and FC Bayern München with two matches to play, anything less than a first win of the campaign for Cesare Prandelli's men would leave the Viola unable to do better than third place and a UEFA Cup slot.
Lyon, for their part, need just a point at the Stadio Artemio Franchi to assure a sixth consecutive qualification for the knockout phase; this despite making a shaky start to their UEFA Champions League challenge in a 2-2 draw against the team from Florence. Trailing 2-0 with 17 minutes to play at the Stade de Gerland on Matchday 1, Lyon conjured up two late goals to earn a point and deal Fiorentina's confidence a body blow. The Italian side let slip another lead three weeks ago, when they were denied a precious 1-0 home win over Bayern by Tim Borowski's 78th-minute equaliser.
'Match of hope'
Prandelli, whose charges are up to sixth in Serie A after coming from a goal down to beat Udinese Calcio 4-2 at home on Saturday, knows there is now no room for manoeuvre. "We're all focused on this game, it's the match of hope," Prandelli said. "There's a really huge desire to put on a big performance in the Champions League tomorrow. We've already shown this season that we can play really well against big clubs. We just have to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes we've made in the past." The coach has no major injury worries, with Per Krøldrup and Stevan Jovetić set to be available after missing out at the weekend.
Lyon will be buoyed by a brace of group victories over FC Steaua Bucureşti as well as the creditable 1-1 draw in Munich on Matchday 2. Holding 2001 winners Bayern in the Fußball Arena München was no mean feat while hammering Steaua 5-3 in Bucharest underlined their impressive away form. With talismanic captain and free-kick expert Juninho Pernambucano pulling the strings in midfield and France striker Karim Benzema up front, Lyon will pose a real attacking threat, particularly on the break.
However, coach Claude Puel refuses to downplay the task facing his team on Tuesday: "Getting one point would be huge. I've said since the beginning of the competition that every match is difficult and it'll be no different tomorrow," he said. "We've come here with a legitimate ambition, but we need to put on a strong, solid performance if we're to get a point, if not all three." Puel, whose men remain five points clear at the top of Ligue 1 despite Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain FC, will be without defenders François Clerc and Anthony Réveillère, midfielders Fábio Santos and Mathieu Bodmer, and forward César Delgado.