Fighting Fiorentina flourish, arrogant Inter fail

While one team rose to the occasion, the other fell well short of great expectations. That just about sums up Fiorentina and Inter’s Champions League performances.

The Nerazzurri will point out that defeat at the Nou Camp wasn't fatal to their chances of progress, but it was another lacklustre showing against a high-profile European rival who even left their two star performers out of the starting line-up.

Where Inter fall down is that they don't have anyone to step in when a potential matchwinner is unavailable, as was the case with Wesley Sneijder last night.

Maybe Jose Mourinho would have risked the playmaker if qualification was on the line – as it now is against Rubin Kazan in a fortnight – but in terms of individual quality, man-for-man Inter are well behind the Catalans.

The likes of Thiago Motta, Maicon, Julio Cesar et al may impress in Italy but outside the confines of Serie A they are left wanting.

Domestic success seems to have taken away the edge that even Roberto Mancini’s team had when they made their fruitless tilts at European glory.

Fiorentina, for their part, proved on an emotionally draining evening against Lyon that the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.

Cesare Prandelli was shorn of Adrian Mutu and Stevan Jovetic for the game of his managerial career, but what his chosen 11 lacked in individual skill they more than made up for in unstinting team-work and a desire to see the job done rather than risk a final stand-off with Liverpool.

It is the first time in a decade that the Tuscans have reached the knockout stage, and the breakthrough can only increase the feeling within the club that they can become the a genuine fourth power in Italy.

No one deserves this moment more than Prandelli, whose man-management has transformed the careers of the likes of Alberto Gilardino, Riccardo Montolivo and Juan Vargas – not to mention giving Mutu the chance to resurrect his fading fortunes. 

Would Prandelli have produced a better performance from Mourinho’s charges last night?

Well, they may not wear purple but Inter believe they are aristocracy. However, sometimes a more humbling approach can pay off.

It's doubtful that an Inter team managed by Prandelli would have strutted on to the pitch expecting to be handed the keys to the castle.

He knows that they have to be earned – and all of Italy should be proud that the representative least expected to make the last 16 are across the line first.

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