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Mutu urges Viola to cross finish line

Adrian Mutu is hoping a sense of occasion can help ACF Fiorentina into the UEFA Cup final and beyond as the Viola gear up for the 53rd game of a long season.

Adrian Mutu has been in top form for Fiorentina this season
Adrian Mutu has been in top form for Fiorentina this season ©Getty Images

In-form Adrian Mutu is hoping a sense of occasion can guide ACF Fiorentina through their UEFA Cup semi-final tie with Rangers FC and beyond as the Italian team gear up for their 53rd game of a long season.

Smith caution
Mutu endured a frustrating evening last week as the sides played out "a really ugly match", with chances at a premium as prudence prevailed over panache. The expectations are that the second leg in Tuscany will be a more open affair, and with six goals already to his name in Fiorentina's campaign, it is no accident that Rangers manager Walter Smith singled out Mutu as a principal threat. "He is one of those players that can change the game with an individual moment of skill," he said. "He's very hard to mark, though Fiorentina have a few players like that."

Final push
None of Mutu's team-mates can match his return of 17 Serie A goals this season, however, already eclipsing his mark of 16 last term and with at least four games still to play, the Romanian international is hoping to add to his tally yet. "I would obviously like to play well but as part of a team," he said. "It has seen us through 53 games this season and everybody knows how important this match is. It has been a very long season but the importance of the matches we have left – to reach the UEFA Cup final and qualify for the UEFA Champions League – will push us along. We have important matches until the end of the season."

Fine fettle
Mutu is one of five Viola players a booking away from missing the final in Manchester on 14 May should his side get there, though he insists personal pain will not inhibit team gain, and if Fiorentina are to succeed they may need him. Asked if he was playing the best football of his career at the press conference on Wednesday, he was unable to answer as coach Cesare Prandelli jumped in with a "yes". Having coached him at Parma FC in 2002/03 and for the past two seasons in Florence, he perhaps knows better than anybody.

'Il fenomeno'
Prandelli has always shown faith in Mutu, despite disciplinary problems, and been duly rewarded – now the player known as 'Il fenomeno' at the Stadio Artemio Franchi is keen to extend that compensation to the Fiorentina faithful. "I have played some important matches with Chelsea [FC], reaching the Champions League semi-finals, but this will be very important as I have a deep relationship with Florence and this club," said the 29-year-old. "Tomorrow we will go 100 per cent and we want the fans to do the same."