Fresh off an absolute snoozer of a scoreless draw at Atalanta, Fiorentina now get to head back to the Franchi, lick their wounds, and get ready for Cagliari to visit. The reverse fixture was a 3-5 thriller won by the good guys, featuring a Nikola Kalinic hat trick and a Federico Bernardeschi brace. Over their last 10 league meetings, Fiorentina are W3 D4 L3, including W3 D2 L1 at the home.
The referee for this one is Claudio Gavillucci, whom you may recall from the water polo match against Crotone last year. That was just the second Viola match he’s ever officiated; both have finished as draws to bottom-half sides in Florence, which is a concern. In 29 career Serie A matches, he’s given 11 penalties and 6 red cards.
The match will be played on Sunday, 12 March 2017, at 4 PM CET/10 AM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
The Viola are officially sputtering right now, having managed 5 points from their past 5 matches. Still stuck in 8th place and 10 points out of a European spot right now, the only real positive right now is that they’ve hit the magical 40-point threshold which supposedly marks safety from relegation; it’s hard to cheer too hard for that, though. They’ve been as predictable as ever in attack and generous in defense, just how they usually are.
Paulo Sousa is almost certainly out as the manager next season due to his questionable tactical, personnel, and press conference choices. He will, though, have a complete squad at his disposal this week for the first time in ages, as Federico Bernardeschi (ankle) and even Bartlomiej Dragowski (knee) are fully recovered. The Portuguese mister will probably send out something resembling his first choice XI; the only question is whether he’ll bench one of Milan Badelj and Matias Vecino to make space for Borja Valero in central midfield and thus bring in an extra attacker (Josip Ilicic?).
Given how successful Borja was in this fixture from a deeper position, it’s a pretty safe bet, although it will rather strand his midfield partner. Within the (no longer quite as) friendly confines of the Franchi, Fiorentina should play on the front foot in this one, keeping the wingbacks high up the pitch and exploiting their numerical advantage in the middle to try and pass a way through the Rossoblu defense.
If things look dire for the Gigliati, they look even worse for their visitors. Cagliari are just W1 D1 L3 over their past 5 matches and have shipped 11 goals in that span while scoring just 4, including a 1-5 drubbing at the hands of Inter Milan. They’ve clawed their way to 13th in the league after a rather disastrous start, but things seem to be trending down again. That’ll happen when you allow more than 2 goals a game—Cagliari have the 2nd-worst defense in the league—and are particularly bad on the road; they’ve notched just 2 wins away from the Sant’Elia.
Manager Massimo Rastelli has done pretty well, though, all things considered. After all, he’s led this team to the top of Serie B and looks pretty certain to keep them in the top flight this year. He’s a bit of a serial formation switcher and even tried a 3-5-2 out against Inter last week. He usually sticks with 4 at the back, though, and early word from the the Sardi camp is that he’ll revert to a 4-4-1-1, although 4-3-1-2 is also an option.
Whatever the formation, he’ll be missing starting centerback Luca Cepitelli (knee) and journeyman striker Fedeico Melchiorri (knee). Strike Victor Ibarbo, recently returned from a loan spell with Panathinaikos, looks likely to depart again, this time for Japan, as his relationship with the club has deteriorated further. The dangerman is 34-year-old target man Marco Boriello, who’s struck 12 league goals this season. With some pacy support players in Marco Sau, Joao Pedro, Diego Farias, and Niccolo Barella, the plan will be to soak up the pressure, then spring on the counter and play Boriello into the area.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Given the leakiness of the Caseddu defense and the return of the Berna, it’s hard to feature Fiorentina not finding some joy in attack and wearing down an older, slower backline. There could be some bookings in this one, too, as the Rossoblu midfield chases their hosts around the center of the pitch. Let’s go with a 3-1 to the good guys, with a Kalinic brace and a blast from Bernardeschi, along with a late one from Boriello.