After nearly bottling their match against bottom-of-the-table Pescara, Fiorentina travel to the capital for what will surely be a stiffer test in the form of AS Roma, who sit second in the table. When these two met earlier this year, the Viola squeaked out with a 1-0 win, although Roma won the last one at the Olimpico by a scoreline of 4-1. In their last 10 against the Giallorossi, Fiorentina are W3 D1 L6.
The referee for this one is Massimiliano Irrati, under whom the Viola have gone W1 D1 L2, including his really poor job in the 3-1 loss to Lazio that saw a succession of Fiorentina players mugged without any repercussion, including Nenad Tomovic taking a boot to the face with no whistle.
The match will be played on Tuesday, 7 February 2017, at 7:45 PM CET/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Last we saw Roma, they were only escaping from a Coppa Italia loss against Cesena due to a 97th minute Francesco Totti penalty. They’re W4 D0 L1 over their last 5 in Serie A matches. Now 2nd in the league, they’re 4 points behind leaders Juventus and desperately need to keep winning if they want to break the Bianconeri stranglehold on the league, much less stay ahead of 3rd-placed Napoli, who lurk 2 points behind them.
Manager Luciano Spalletti has ditched his usual 4-3-3 of late in favor of a more 3-4-2-1ish shape, which better suits his personnel right now. He’ll be missing long-term absentee Alessandro Florenzi (knee) as well as centerback Juan Jesus (knee) and wingers Mohamed Salah (AFCON) and Diego Peres (hamstring) . However, this is still the same old Roma: a sometimes shaky backline, a midfield mixing grit and technique, and some brilliant wide attackers.
With the prolific (if sometimes wasteful) Edin Dzeko up top and the energy of Radja Nainggolan behind him, the central midfield pairing will probably play a reserved role and leave the attacking to the tridente and a pair of very forward-minded wingbacks. They may be a bit loose at the back, but will be buoyed by the return of star defender Kostas Manolas.
The Viola have, perhaps, the most frustrating 5 match Serie A undefeated run ever, managing a W3 D2 in that time. However, it required some last-second heroics against a bad Delfini team, and late collapses against both Napoli and Genoa. Still, though, they’ve fought their way to 7th place, just 3 points behind Lazio, 5th place, and Europa League qualification.
Paulo Sousa will once again scramble to assemble a backline in the absence of captain Gonzalo Rodriguez (hamstring), although at least Davide Astori should be ready to go this time around against his former employers. It remains unclear if Ciprian Tatarusanu (back) is healthy enough to start, so Marco Sportiello may get another shot between the sticks. Federico Bernardeschi and Nikola Kalinic will almost certainly return, and Borja Valero will push into the playmaker role to allow Matias Vecino and Milan Badelj to form a sturdy midfield pairing to combat a physical Roma group.
Let’s be honest: this is a tough ask for Sousa. He’ll probably hope for more of a grinding match, but will have to figure out how to protect the right side of his defense, where the redoubtable Carlos Sanchez is an ace defender but lacks the pace to run with Stephan El Shaarawy. On the other hand, Federico Chiesa and Berna could run riot down Roma’s left, so it may be an interesting battle.
How to watch
TV: If you have RAI, then you should fire it up.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Roma haven’t been particularly good recently despite their recent results and the Viola are due to have a fully coherent 90 minutes at some point (right?), so let’s call it a 1-2 win for Fiorentina, with Berna and Kalinic on target for the visitors and Nainggolan getting a goal and a sending off.