So guys, here we are. Coming into this match off the back of a season defining 2-1 loss against Crotone, we now find ourselves welcoming one of the most frightening teams in Europe to the Artemio Franchi. Welp.
Last September saw the boys notch a sweet 1-0 victory over Spalletti's side, which was then followed up by a thorough 4-0 spanking at the Olimpico which I am still trying to erase from my brain. This years Roma are a different beast however, and while Monchi has been working his transfer magic, they have slowly but but surely morphed into a mean, lean, killing machine, thanks to Eusebio Di Francesco.
Well, what can I tell you that you don't already know. There is very little to go off given the topsy-turvy, stop-start nature of this season. Convincing back to back 3-nil wins against Benevento and Torino preceeded what was a pretty dire 2-1 loss at bottom-feeders Crotone. Despite some good individual performances across the season, its still hard to draw an understanding as to where this season is actually going. In any case however, seeing how Pioli adapts his side against Roma will be fascinating. Granted, comparing Fiorentina and Roma's squads is like comparing my decade old Vauxhall Corsa with a Audi TT, but nonetheless, just like my Corsa, if you know how to make it purr it can compete with the best. Ok, maybe that comparison isn't totally accurate, but on a more serious note, Pioli has a chance to really demonstrate his coaching ability.
Squad wise, Fiorentina are looking in good nick. Cyril Thereau is back (which may not actually be a good thing), Riccardo Saponara is back on the bench and theres a chance Dias may be fit enough to play a part. Expect the usual 4-3-3, with Marco Benassi and Jordan Veretout flanking Milan Badelj. Formation wise, Pioli will mirror Roma, which eliminates any humiliating Ventura-esque mismatches across the field.
Roma on the other hand come fresh off the back of opening a can of whoop-ass on Antonio Conte. Their 3-0 victory was impressive to say the least, and the fluency they showed in their rotations and movements signal as clear as day that Di Francesco has got this side working as he'd like. They're unbeaten in 3 in Serie A, sweeping aside Torino, Crotone and Bologna, as they should. One notable improvement Roma have made this season is their approach to the game from an intensity perspective. Like Napoli, Sapletti has his side playing at 100mph, and always looking to attack, such a transformation is probably keeping Pioli up at night.
Expect to see Florenzi and Kolarov hold the full-back positions down given Bruno Peres' injury, with Stephan El Shaarawy, Diego Perotti, and Edin Dzeko completing a truly frightening trident. Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman will typically stack the midfield, and expect that exact area to be key to any victory for Fiorentina. Naturally, the 4-3-3 lends to midfield dominance, which means a showdown, and this town ain't big enough for the both of them.
How to watch
BT Sport (UK) are showing the game, but everyone non-UK would be advised to look here for the best list of reliable, safe streams.