Fiorentina’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Genoa this weekend puts the Viola within three points of Milan in sixth with only two matches remaining, as Stefano Pioli’s side continue to press forward in order to achieve a place in the Europa League for next season.
The run-in looks set to provide some excellent entertainment between Fiorentina, Atalanta and the Rossoneri as Gennaro Gattuso’s men will travel to Bergamo to face La Dea in the penultimate round and host their Tuscan competitors on the final match of the season.
Togetherness in the squad has been a major factor as the Viola achieved eight wins in the last 11 matches, and this was clearly demonstrated after the final whistle at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. The players went over and celebrated long and hard with supporters who had made the journey to Liguria, and those festivities continued as they headed back into the dressing room.
There, the squad sang the name of their late Captain Davide Astori as they jumped and danced in honour of their achievements so far this season. This young team have made a name for themselves after such a positive response to a terrible tragedy on March 4th as they look to secure that coveted Europa League berth in his name.
The likes of Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa clearly have a bright future ahead of them, but left-back Cristiano Biraghi is making an understated but vitally important impact on this side. In his post-match comments on Sunday, Pioli named the 25-year-old as the most improved player since the start of the season, high praise indeed for someone part of this highly-determined outfit.
Biraghi’s performances become even more impressive when considering his previous experience. An Inter youth product, he would never make a senior appearance for the Nerazzurri, instead being sent out on a series of loans to Juve Stabia, Catania and Chievo and spent a brief permanent spell at Cittadella. A somewhat nomadic start to his career would continue with another temporary period in La Liga with Granada before Inter sold him to Serie A newcomers Pescara at the beginning of 2016/17.
With just 12 points earned on the pitch by the Delfini – and three points awarded on a technicality – the season would be disastrous for the newly-promoted side and Biraghi moved on to Fiorentina after making 35 appearance in the campaign that would send Pescara straight back to Serie B. However, this does not seem to have affected Biraghi as he has steadily improved exactly as his Coach described.
This player lives up to all the demands placed on a modern full-back, solid defensively and possessing a superb ability to cross the ball with pace and accuracy. Last Sunday Biraghi was excellent once again, providing the cross that led to the second goal for Valentin Eysseric and went for goal himself, playing in a powerful shot that went just wide.
The statistics back up a good performance that could be viewed by the naked eye, as StatsZone reveals that Biraghi created two clear-cut chances versus Genoa. He also recovered the ball on three separate occasions, made two interceptions and all three clearances attempted. The left-back would also complete the highest number of crosses (five) of any player on either team in Genoa and found a team-mate with two out of four corners taken.
“I am not a phenomenon, I do not have the infinite quality of Federico Chiesa, but I do want those who love Fiorentina to know that I will always give 100 percent for this shirt,” Biraghi told Il Bridivo Sportivo during the early part of the season. “I won’t hold back a tackle, nor spare a drop of sweat. As far as I am concerned, Florence and Fiorentina are the ultimate career goal.”
With his previous career path in mind, perhaps it is not a surprise that Biraghi feels he has reached a high point of his playing days so far. However, true to his word, the left-back has given everything this season and this is paying dividends on the pitch. Following the death of his team-mate Davide Astori, Biraghi soon went to get a tattoo depicting his Captain’s initials and squad number.
How fitting then, that he would become a key player in the push towards achieving a place in the Europa League in Astori’s name this season, and is looking like a vitally important player as the Viola go forth with the project that began with the construction of a brand new side last summer.
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