A starting line up reminiscent of Pioli’s halcyon day’s *cough 5-0 at Verona cough* saw Cyril Thereau shoe-horned back into the line up alongside Giovanni Simeone and the eternal son Federico Chiesa, with La Viola banking on a non-refundable one-way ticket to 3 point city. The baseball cap loving Giuseppe Iachini took control of the sinking ship that is Sassuolo with Cristian Bucchi falling by the way side, in the hope that Sassuolo would experience a more positive reaction than Genaro Gattuso’s Milan side did against Benevento.. Viva la Brignoli.
Fiorentina’s calm and assured start ensured a flat first 20 minutes which saw Pioli’s side take control of Sassuolo but nothing more. A few testing shots and runs from Cheisa and co. set the tone, as Fiorentina grew into the game with a bubbling confidence sparked by the fantastic Cyril Thereau. Stretching the play to the flanks stemming from the confidence Fiorentina’s midfield had to express themselves meant Vincent Laurini found himself in enough space to whip in a looping cross with pinpoint accuracy straight onto the head of il Cholito, who nodded home relatively unchallenged. A second looked increasingly likely and when Chiesa fed a low pass down the right flank to Thereau who kept expertly onside the Frenchman unleashed a laser guided pass across the Sassuolo box to Jordan Veretout. The French Connection ensured Veretout slotted home with his first touch at the back post magnificently. 2-0 and the game looked all but wrapped up for Fiorentina, and in any normal situation I’d be a fool prompting such a curse, but this wasn’t any normal situation.
With Sassuolo threatening occasionally, albeit with half-chances, Pioli’s men looked for a way to seal the deal and that moment came in the 71st minute when again, King Thereau sprung a delightfully weighted pass to a marauding Chiesa who slipped the ball past Andrea Consigli to make it 3-0. The movement and intelligence Chiesa showed to not just see the run but also time it perfectly was magnificent; so too was Thereau’s pass. Early critsicm of Fiorentina by myself for signing a 34 year old journeyman for a fee from Udinese seemed sensible, however the importance Thereau has had since arriving has been incredible. Fiorentina are yet to win without him in the side, and his experience has become invaluable in puppeteering a young, aggressive attack. Some late tactical switches saw Pioli swap Laurini for Vitor Hugo, meaning Pezzella provided some solidity at right full back. Thereau then made way for Khouma Babacar, who got his customary 15 minute cameo. Sassuolo’s feeble attack fizzled out, as the Neroverdi played the part of Joe Jordan while Fiorentina channelled their inner Gattuso to throttle any remaining challenge out of the club from Modena.
A comprehensive and comfortable win for Fiorentina who rarely broke a sweat. Fiorentina’s performance was undeniably aided by Sassuolo’s toothlessness but there was plenty for Pioli to be pleased with. Veretout’s iron lungs complemented Benassi’s midfield presence and both hugely benefit from Milan Badelj’s counterbalancing role in the side. Next up is Napoli, so savour this feeling folks.
Sportiello - 7 - Had little to do but was reliable when called upon. No clangers from Sporty this week.
Laurini - 8 - A solid, industrious shift from the Frenchman and he was rewarded with a lovely finish from Simeone.
Pezzella - 7 - Assured, calm and despite an awful touch in the first half which led to a Sassuolo counter, he was collected.
Astori - 8 - A captain’s performances from Davide, one which saw him do exactly what he does best.
Biraghi - 7 - An unremarkable if not great performance.
Badelj - 7 - The human metronome kept play ticking, consistently giving both Pezzella and Astori a springboard to play off.
Benassi - 7 - Ran, tackled, passed, did a bit of everything. Nothing spectacular.
Veretout - 8 - An athletic, combative performance from Veretout who gave everything until the final whistle.
Chiesa - 8 - Provided a constant wide threat from the right flank this time, but let’s face it, he's fantastic wherever he plays.
Thereau - 9 - Two wonderful assists ensured he finished the game as MOTM. 34 going on 23.
Simeone - 8 - A rugged and tenacious performance from Florence’s favourite Argentin... oh wait, favourite current Argentine. Phew.
Babacar - 6 - Did nothing of note, but a 15 minute substitute appearance isn't really enough for a player like Khouma.
Vitor Hugo - 7 - It would have been fairly easy to forget he was on the pitch, but as a defender, that’s probably the best praise you can receive.
Saponara - 6 - A handful of minutes for Ricky, not enough for him to really impact the game.