Pick your narrative: Vincenzo Montella and Mati Fernandez host the Gigliati. Riccardo Montolivo remains injured for a match against his former team. Fiorentina try to cope without Federico Bernardeschi. 7th and 8th place battle for 3 points that could go a long way to seeing them into Europe next season. This should be a good game.
In Florence earlier this season, these two finished scoreless. In their last 10 meetings, Fiorentina are W5 D3 L2. The ref for this one is Paolo Valeri, who always seems to officiate matches that the Viola draw.
The match will be played on Sunday, 19 February 2017, at 8:45 CET/2:45 PM EST, at the San Siro in Milan.
Fresh off a slightly lucky Europa win at Borussia Monchengladbach, the Viola are probably brimming with belief right now. They’ve gone W3 D1 L1 in their past 5 Serie A matches as well and are starting to round into form as a club that really ought to chase the likes of Atalanta out of the European places.
To do so, though, they need to sort out their league form, and Paulo Sousa will have to do it without Federico Bernardeschi, who’s suspended for yellow card accumulation. That should open a spot for Josip Ilicic, who’ll be keen to show that he’s still an important part of the squad. We could also see Riccardo Saponara fill in for Borja Valero, although it’s more likely that the former Milan man will come off the bench against his old side.
Sousa will probably send out his usual 3-4-2-1, although there’s an outside possibility that he could switch to a 4-3-3, pulling Valero farther back into the midfield and sacrificing Ilicic in exchange for Cristian Tello. Expect to see a lot of through passes to Kalinic, who’ll test the unfamiliar centerback pairing he’s up against by working the channels and trying to get in behind.
The Rossoneri have slumped to W1 D1 L3 in their past 5, with the most recent a 1-1 draw against Lazio which required some late luck to split the spoils. Milan fans are probably now starting to find out about Montella what Viola fans already knew: that his tactical inflexibility/stubbornness often leads to sudden runs of poor form.
Montella’s cause isn’t helped by a staggering array of injuries: centerback Alessio Romagnoli (hamstring), fullbacks Mattia de Sciglio (ankle) and Luca Antonelli (calf), and midfielders Riccardo Montolivo (knee) and Giacomo Bonaventura (hamstring) are all out for this one, while centerback Rodrigo Ely (leg) and rightback Davide Calabria (leg) may miss out as well. As a result, Gustavo Gomez and Leonel Vangioni will probably come into the defense, while Jose Sosa and Manuel Locatelli will both hope for a start in midfield.
This being Montella, we know more or less what to expect. It’ll be a 4-3-3 with a nippy, technical tridente and a midfield that will look to pass the ball around neatly. The pace of Ignazio Abate and Suso down the right will probably be Milan’s greatest threat, although Carlos Bacca runs the channels well and Gerard Deulofeu is capable of magic. Due to the injuries, though, this group isn’t as secure at the back as Cousin Vinny would like.
How to watch
TV: If you have RAI, this is the time to fire it up.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Largely due to the crisis at the back for AC Milan, I like Fiorentina to win this one. The Viola should have acres of space on the left, as Chiesa will pin back journeyman Leonel Vangioni. As Deulofeu is famously disinterested in defending, Ilicic should find lots of space in his preferred inside right position, which will mess with Montella’s shape considerably as his players scramble to cover. I’m calling 2-0 to the good guys, with Kalinic and Ilicic on target.