Fiorentina will try to shake off the recent series of disappointments with a trip to Bergamo to face Atalanta, who’ve probably been the most unexpectedly excellent team in the league this term. The Gigliati, though, have won 8 of their last 9 Serie A matches and last 10 overall against la Dea, so at least there’s that; the only failure to take all 3 points was, of course the matchup earlier this season, which finished scoreless.
The referee for this one is Marco Guida, under whose watch the Viola are W5 D4 L3; most recently, he handled the scoreless draw at Chievo Verona in which Ciprian Tatarusanu rescued a point.
The match will be played on Sunday, 5 March 2017, at 12:30 PM CET/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Atleti Azzuri d’Italia in Bergamo.
Atalanta find themselves in 4th place, which would be their highest-ever finish. They’re also coming off a 0-2 upset at Napoli, which is the latest in a 4-math winning streak and a run of 7 matches unbeaten. After last season’s rather anonymous campaign that ended with the club in 13th and manager Edy Reja fired, new boss Gian Piero Gasperini has worked wonders.
Gasperini will probably stick with his 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation. He’ll have to work around the absences of midfielder Franck Kessie (suspension) and striker Aleksandar Pesic (calf), but shouldn’t be too worried. The former will replaced by one of Alberto Grassi or Bryan Cristante, although our money’s on the Benfica loanee. The other personnel question is at the back, where Rodrigo Toloi and Ervin Zukanovic will duke it out for a spot on the left.
The dangerman is, as ever, Papu Gomez. Gasperini has pushed the diminutive winger up top, which allows him to work the channels and take on lumbering centerbacks, as well as drop deep and then turn and run. With 9 goals and 7 assists this season, he remains perhaps the most underrated attacker in Europe. Also keep an eye our for ex-Viola midfielder Jasmin Kurtic, who’s been lights-out good for la Dea this year while working as almost a trequartista; his energy and pressing set the tempo for the rest of the squad.
It’s hardly a secret that the Viola are reeling. Still stuck in 8th place, they’re a full 9 points out of the last European spot and will need something of a miracle collapse from at least Atalanta, Lazio, AC Milan, and Inter Milan if they want a European campaign next season. With recent second-half collapses across 2 competitions piquing the fans’ ire, it sure doesn’t look likely, with a struggling W2 D1 L2 in their last 5 league matches, including a -1 goal difference.
Paulo Sousa is well and truly on the hot seat, and it’d be surprising if he makes it to the end of the season; he’s completely lost the fans for sending out a succession of unmotivated looking squads poorly executing predictable game plans. This week, at least, any bad result won’t be entirely his fault, as midfielder Riccardo Saponara is out suspended and winger Federico Bernardeschi (ankle), forward Josip Ilicic (hamstring), and leftback Hrvoje Milic (nose) are all questionable with injuries as well.
Down 3 of the club’s best attackers, it’s hard to say if Paulo will stick with the 4-2-3-1 or revert to the 3-4-2-1. We’ve heard rumors that Sebastian Cristoforo may get a rare league start, although hopefully not in the number 10 role he’s so poorly suited for. With so few attacking options, though, this could be one of the less-inspiring performances we’ll see from the Viola, with lots of aimless passing in the middle basically eliminating Nikola Kalinic from the match.
How to watch
TV: RAI, BT Sport 1, and Fox Sports 2 Cono Sur (in South America) are carrying this one.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
I can already feel that Papu Gomez is going to score, so let’s say 2-1 to Fiorentina as they unexpectedly pull together after a tough few weeks and get all three points on the road through a Kalinic brace. Please?