Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina have seriously damaged their hopes of Champions League qualification with a lacklustre start to the season.
La Viola, who finished narrowly wide of a spot in Europe’s top tier competition in fourth last term, were held to a third draw from five matches against Torino on Sunday to leave them residing ninth in the table.
And with Juventus and Roma already preparing to engage in a two horse race over the course of the season, the battle for the precious third spot could see them miss out.
Last season Montella took the side to new heights, guiding them to the Europa League and the final of the Coppa Italia in the process.
They were brushed aside by Napoli on that occasion, but in the race for the Scudetto the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Giuseppe Rossi and Alberto Aquilani particularly excelled.
There were many reasons for the fans to smile, with the 4-2 victory over Antonio Conte’s Juventus a demonstration of their attacking resources and further evidence of their growing prowess.
Yet with both the rest of the divisions leading pack having invested shrewdly over the summer, La Viola are languishing behind and face an uphill challenge to transform their season.
Roma provided the first challenge of their credentials on the opening day of the season, and kicked their own season into gear with a comfortable 2-0 victory at the Stadio Olympico.
Genoa came to town earlier this month and escaped with a point following a goalless draw at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, before Montella oversaw a first league triumph of the season with a narrow 1-0 win over Atalanta.
The latest draw away at Torino mere days after another poor home performance against Sassuolo means they have taken just six points from their first five games.
They have been fortunate that Napoli, both Milan clubs and Verona have started similarly inconsistent, but the others have greater squads that can last the distance over the comings months.
Another factor that has cast a long, bleak shadow over Montella is the injuries to star strikers Rossi and Mario Gomez.
The former started last season in prolific fashion, and was tussling with Ciro Immobile, Carlos Tevez and Luca Toni for the Golden Boot award prior to the injury that ended his season and have ended any hopes of anymore football this calendar year.
Gomez arrived last summer from German powerhouses Bayern Munich, but upon being sidelined was also overlooked for a place in Joachim Lowe’s victorious World Cup squad.
When they are fit and firing again La Viola can attempt to transform their fortunes, but by the time comes the Champions League opportunity may have passed.