Fiorentina fast becoming Inter's rivals

MILAN - Fiorentina's strong start to the season has confirmed that the Florence side can be regarded as serious challengers to Serie A leaders Inter Milan.

Joint-third in the table, four points behind Inter, they host inconsistent Napoli on Sunday following a string of impressive results and a forward line brooding with confidence.

Champions League wins over Liverpool and Debrecen and last weekend's battling 1-1 draw at Juventus were largely down to strikers Alberto Gilardino, Stevan Jovetic and Adrian Mutu.

The trio, along with French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey, are the only well-known faces in the lineup with a collection of hard-working team players complementing their brilliance.

Coach Cesare Prandelli is cautious about playing all three together but is happy Romania's Mutu is now revitalised after Swiss courts suspended a record fine the Court of Arbitration for Sport said he had to pay for being sacked by Chelsea.

"Mutu and Jovetic playing with Gilardino could be a dream but we are not yet ready," he told reporters.

"From here, it is possible to have all our important players available, it will depend match by match how we manage the situation best. For them, it will be an extra motivation."


Napoli won their first game under new coach Walter Mazzarri last weekend against Bologna, but only thanks to a late goal.

Juve had been widely predicted to be Inter's main title rivals again this term but five games without a win and Wednesday's nervous 1-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League have raised doubts about their prospects.

Ciro Ferrara's side travel to struggling Siena on Sunday with midfielder Felipe Melo doubtful with an ankle injury.

Second-placed Sampdoria, whose surprise early season form has slipped, host Bologna on Saturday with the lowly visitors under new coach Franco Colomba for the first time.

Inter are also showing inconsistency with last weekend's 5-0 thrashing of Genoa followed by another unconvincing Champions League display in Wednesday's 2-2 home draw with Kiev.

Saturday's game with Catania at the San Siro offers the perfect opportunity to reaffirm their position as Serie A kings, especially with striker Diego Milito fit after injury.

Only AC Milan can match Fiorentina's recent form, in the last two games at least, and coach Leonardo can now look forward to Sunday's trip to Chievo instead of oozing trepidation.

Last weekend's 2-1 win over AS Roma and Wednesday's deserved 3-2 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu have reignited their season after an awful start.

Error-prone Dida's huge mistake for Real's first goal has been dubbed another "Didaster" by Italian media but the keeper could keep his place with Marco Storari out for a month.

Bottom side Livorno welcome new coach Serse Cosmi for Sunday's visit to Roma.