Sunday April 7 2013
Viviano faces good friend Balotelli

Fiorentina goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano believes they can beat Milan to close on a Champions League spot today despite his friend Mario Balotelli’s efforts.

It is fourth against third at the Stadio Franchi today, kicking off at 11.30am UK time (10.30 GMT). Click here for a match preview.

“Milan are very strong and packed with champions, but we are up there too and that means we have done well this season,” Viviano told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We’ve picked up more points on home turf than anyone else. It is our duty to push for a Champions League spot, as we can do this.

“We have the opportunity with this head-to-head to close the gap and put everything back in the balance.”

Among those champions is Balotelli, who is Viviano’s close friend.

“Mario is an incredible talent who was born to play football. If he wants to, and stays healthy, then he can be one of the best players in the world, as he has physique, pace and a fierce shot. He never misses penalties because he stays calm and can hit the ball hard even when standing still.

“Since he arrived, Milan have changed gear. He has a heart of gold and I care about him. It’s true Mario made some mistakes, we discussed them and I tried to help him, but everyone tries to create this unfair image of him.

“Balotelli is an honest and pure person who is without ulterior motives.”

The Viola won 3-1 at San Siro earlier this season, but are fresh from a defeat to Cagliari.

“It is absolutely crucial that we don’t get the approach wrong, which is what we did in Cagliari. We are young and a mature side would not have done that.”

Riccardo Montolivo can expect a fiery reception at the Stadio Franchi, as he left on a free transfer last summer after refusing to sign a new contract.

“As a Viola fan, I appreciated his clarity in declaring publicly he would not be signing a new deal. Choices can be shared or not, but he was honest,” argued Viviano.

“If the fans do jeer him, it’ll be because they once cared so much. He went away and the fans were upset.”

The goalkeeper does not know if he will be in Florence next season, as he is only on loan.

“Playing here was my dream since childhood, so I could never regret coming to Fiorentina.”