Sunday, September 23
8:45 PM local, 2:45 PM EST, 11:45 AM PST
After an encouraging win over Bologna, Fiorentina travels to the Giuseppe Meazza to take on Interazionale, who've won every game they've played. The Nerazzuri have what looks like most of Prandelli's stalwarts on their roster, just in case this one wasn't shaping up to be dramatic enough. And a win would put Fiorentina top of the table for the first time since the season opener in 2005 (for the record, this is the first time they've reached second since 2008). So yeah, this is a big deal.
Roberto Mancini has done an excellent job with Inter thus far, winning five from five, which is better than even Erick Thohir could have imagined when he spent a fortune on new players this summer. To thicken the plot, former Viola heartthrob and Manchester City loanee Stevan Jovetic has been Inter's key man, scoring five goals in as many games. Jojo looks better in Serie A than he ever did in the Premier League, which is joyous, but hopefully he'll tone it down for this one. Former Viola standouts Adem Ljajic and Felipe Melo are also key players for Inter, so there'll be no lack of familiarity.
Mancini has opted for four defenders and three midfielders in every game, but has varied his tridente. He either uses two wingers and striker, or two strikers and trequartista. In midfield, he seems to favor powerful, functional players. He'll be missing center back Nemanja Vidic, who's already missed months with a herniated disc and won't return until January at the earliest; other than that, he has a full squad to choose from.
Paulo Sousa has to be feeling good, as Fiorentina have ground out results, even though they haven't really convinced yet. A win at Inter would go a long way to solidifying the fans' and club's confidence in him, so he'll want this one very badly. Expect the traveling tifosi to cheer Jovetic, who remains dear to Fiorentina fans' hearts; similar treatment for Ljajic and Melo (who is likely to try and break Borja Valero) is unlikely.
Sousa doesn't have any absences to worry about, either. Look for him to rotate some players; especially up front, and to make some changes in the midfield to deal with Inter's physicality. I expect him to go for a 4-3-3 again, mostly because his options at right wingback are rather unappealing (Jakub Blaszczykowski played ninety minutes on Wednesday, and Gilberto simply isn't ready for a game like this), although he could try a 3-5-2 and switch to a 4-3-3 part way through. With Rossi, Ilicic, Bernardeschi, and Kalinic fully rested, I expect whichever one doesn't start will be subbed in at halftime.
Inter (4-3-1-2): Handanovic; Juan Jesus, Murillo, Miranda, Santon; Melo, Guarin, Kondogbia; Perisic; Jovetic, Icardi
Fiorentina (4-3-3): Tatarusanu; Alonso, Gonzalo, Astori, Tomovic; Valero, Suarez, Fernandez; Rossi, Kalinic, Bernardeschi
Shameless homer prediction
Fiorentina are unlikely to push the throttle down and go for a big win, so I think this will be a cautious one. Inter's midfield trio will try to control the center of the pitch and will probably see lots of the ball, but without much penetration. I'm betting on a rather dull 1-1, with Jovetic wriggling through the defense and firing in a low shot from the top of the box, and a Rossi penalty after Murillo fouls Kalinic in the box.
How to watch
TV: If you have BeIn, you've got this one. If you don't, I'd suggest making friends with someone who does.
Online: Here's a list of legal streams for this one. Any posts of illegal streams in the comments will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be ban-hammered. As always, you can follow along with our live updates on Twitter and like our Facebook page.
This is a big one. Let's do it.