Where We Are
It's been a very good (if occasionally inconsistent) fall campaign for la Viola, and our boys just began a promising string of winter fixtures with a convincing display at home to Bologna last weekend. Saturday's Serie A results present Fiorentina the enticing opportunity to end 2013 only three points behind 3rd place Napoli, so Vincenzo Montella will be even more eager than before to see his team seal a memorable year with a win away in Reggio Emilia.
Montella is not without selection handicaps entering the final fixture of this calendar year however, with Gonzalo Rodriguez, David Pizarro, and Mario Gomez (still) out for injury; he must also game plan around the 1-game disciplinary suspension of Juan Cuadrado. Expect a left-footed tandem of Marvin Compper and Stefan Savic in the middle of the defense, with the usual Nenad Tomovic and Manuel Pasqual on the flanks. An only slightly improvised midfield trio is expected to field Massimo Ambrosini, Alberto Aquilani, and the currently rampant Borja Valero. Equally rampant capocannoniere Giuseppe Rossi leads the line, probably assisted by Juan Manuel Vargas on the right and the rising Josip Ilicic on the left.
Where They Are
US Sassuolo have enjoyed a better beginning to their Serie A existence than most anticipated, despite only winning 3 of their first 16 matches and boasting the tied-worst goal differential in the top flight (-18). The Neroverdi remain a point ahead of 18th place Livorno and the relegation zone, despite having won only one of their last five games.
Head coach Eusebio Di Francesco seems an astute tactician that is making a lot of extremely little, but the team leans heavily on the creative capabilities of young Italian strikers Simone Zaza and Domenico Berardi. The youngsters will carry even more of Sassuolo hopes on Sunday with the absences of Schelotto, Acerbi, Gomes, Terranova, and Magnanelli.
Sassuolo were starting to gain a reputation as "giant killers" after taking points off of Napoli, Roma, and Lazio, only to be battered by Juventus 4-0 last weekend. Di Francesco's side have a tendency to concede a lot of goals that isn't quite offset by their attacking talent, but against a Gonzalo-less Fiorentina defensive unit, it should definitely be an entertaining (Viola fans can read "violently stressful") game. It will be interesting to see how an occasionally adventurous Sassuolo side approach a match against Fiorentina's creative firepower, especially in a 4-3-3 that could be horrendously exposed on the break. Cuadrado will be a big miss, but Montella & company should have more than enough talent to carry the day if they play the way they did against Bologna. FORZA VIOLA, and here's to an emphatic end to the calendar year!
Sassuolo (3-4-3): Pegolo; Antei, Bianco, Marzorati; Gazzola, Kurtic, Marrone, Longhi; Berardi, Zaza, Floro Flores
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Neto; Tomovic, Compper, Savic, Pasqual; Aquilani, Ambrosini, Borja Valero; Ilicic, Rossi, Vargas