The Coppa Italia semifinal first leg fixtures have now been finalized, as Lazio take on A.C. Milan on Feb. 26 at 9 p.m. CET and Fiorentina face Atalanta just 24 hours later. There has been much excitement among non-Juventus supporters as the Bianconeri—winners of the last four editions of the competition—have now been eliminated, meaning Italy will see a different winner of the Cup this year.
Ties between these four sides will certainly be closely-matched encounters, setting up plenty of enthralling viewing for partisan and neutral supporters alike.
Of the four teams, Lazio may face the biggest disadvantage as their first leg comes at a time when their fixture list is already clogged with an extremely difficult two-legged Europa League Round of 32 clash versus Sevilla. They may find things easier should they make an exit from Europe before the second-leg of the Coppa Italia semis in April, but could it already be too late by then?
On the opposite side, Gennaro Gattuso finally seems to be having a bit more luck with his Rossoneri squad as the failure of Gonzalo Higuain has been put swiftly behind them with the signings of Lucas Paqueta and Krzysztof Piatek in January. They look to be a force to be reckoned with and it will be tough for Lazio to prevent them reaching the final.
The other half of the draw sees in-form Atalanta face a Fiorentina side that destroyed A.S. Roma by a 7-1 scoreline in the quarterfinal, in what appears to be an evenly-matched affair. Both sides play with the emphasis very much on attack, and there could well be many goals scored over the two legs.
A look at goals scored in the competition so far reveals that the Tuscan side have outscored their rivals nine to two, yet no one, not even top-of-the-table Juventus, have scored more than Atalanta with no less than 48 goals fired in during 22 matches in domestic action.
It is understandable that La Dea have notched up this tally, considering their dynamic front three of Duvan Zapata, Alejandro “Papu” Gomez and Josip Ilicic, but the Viola match them in terms of their prowess with Federico Chiesa, Giovanni Simeone and Luis Muriel in their arsenal.
What’s for sure is that the Coppa Italia semifinals look more exciting than ever this year and—with apologies to supporters of the Old Lady—are at last no longer a foregone conclusion.