It's been more than 3 weeks since a heavy snowfall kept Pescara and Fiorentina from their match at the Stadio Adriatico. Both teams have, since then, remained true to their form at the time. The hosts remain solidly lodged at the bottom of the Serie A table, while the visitors remain the same tremendously uneven and unpredictable team that they've always been. These two haven't met since 2013; in the away fixture, the Viola pasted their hosts 1-5, but the Delfini pulled off a shocking 0-2 upset at the Franchi. Their last meeting before that was back in 2004 in Serie B, when they played to a draw.
The referee for this one is Carmine Russo, under whom Fiorentina are W13 D3 L3. Most recently, he officiated the 3-5 win over Cagliari.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 1 February 2017, at 7:45 PM CET/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Adriatico in Pescara.
2017 hasn't been any kinder to the Delfini than 2016 was. They're D1 L4 in their last 5 Serie A matches and have allowed 3 goals in all but one of those. You certainly can't fault the office for trying to fix things, though, as they've signed a host of new players: centerbacks Cesare Bovo and Guglielmo Stendardo, midfielders Sulley Muntari and Andres Cubas, and strikers Alberto Cerri and ex-Viola man Alberto Gilardino.
Manager Massimo Oddo still has a minor deffensive crisis on his hands, though, as centerbacks Bovo (ankle) and Hugo Campagnaro (leg), rightback Davide Vitturini (leg), and holding midfielder Gaston Brugman (hip) are all out for this one. None of these players are exactly irreplaceable, so none of these absences will trouble Oddo too much.
He'll still set out with his usual 4-3-2-1. The dangermen are pacey frontman Jean-Cristophe Bahebeck, tricky attacker Gianluca Caprari, and midfielder Valerio Verre. The former two work the channels and try to make something happen, and the latter will try to spur the counterattack from a number 10 spot while his midfield colleagues focus on breaking up the play. Even at home, Pescara will focus on frustrating their opponents more than dictating play, so it'll be business as usual for their visitors.
After their meltdown against Genoa, this midweek fixture does not come at a helpful time for the Viola, who continue to exhibit a remarkable talent for shooting themselves right in the foot as soon they get some momentum going. Despite some impressive performances going forward, the defense has been atrociously poor (particularly late in games), resulting in a whole bunch of dropped points in their past 5, in which they've compiled record of W2 D2 L1.
Paulo Sousa has a bit of a crisis on his hands as well. Goalkeepers Ciprian Tatarusanu (knee) and Bartlomiej Dragowski (knee) are both out, so it'll be a second start for new signing Marco Sportiello. Centerback and captain Gonzalo Rodriguez (knee) will miss this one too, as will new trequartista Riccardo Saponara (ankle) and striker Nikola Kalinic (knee). Word is that Cristian Tello may get a rare start as Federico Chiesa (leg) picked up slight knock, and Federico Bernardeschi will probably go, too, as he'll miss next week's tilt due to his sending off. Khouma Babacar will get a chance to add to his gaudy goals-per-minute ratio, and after Sebastien de Maio's rough day in the heart of the defense, Sousa could turn to either Nenad Tomovic or Carlos Salcedo to replace him.
Given the offensive efficacy of the 3-4-2-1 in recent weeks, Sousa will probably stick to it in the hope that his wingbacks will pin back the opposing fullbacks (especially flying rightback Francesco Zampano) and keep Pescara's attacks very narrow. We've also heard rumors that several Primavera players could have a role in this one. Logic dictates that, with Kalinic out and Babacar the only other striker on the roster, we could get a glimpse of Josh Perez or Jan Mlakar up top at some point. The Viola will probably look to pass their way through the midfield, although route one could also work against a fairly slow defense with Babacar up top.
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Ted's Memorial Blind Guess Department
Matching Pescara's defensive woes against a suddenly powerful Fiorentina attack sure looks like it can only have a single outcome, although the Viola's fragility on the back foot could lead to some embarrassing moments. Let's call it a 1-3 win for the good guys on the strength of a Babacar brace and a Cristian Tello strike, despite conceding first after Bahebeck pounces on an error at the back.