I’m not a huge Ben Folds fan, but “Battle of Who Could Care Less” is probably the perfect song for this matchup. Both teams know pretty much exactly where they’re finishing in the table. Both are probably going to have new managers and very different squads next season. Neither has any real motivation to do a lot here, unless the players decide that they need to audition for any potential employers next year. Then again, sometimes these are the kinds of matches where, with all expectations lifted, the teams simply go out and play, leading to a thrilling 90 minutes. We have no idea to know which it’ll be, though.
These teams have played 13 times in Serie A, with Fiorentina holding a W10 D2 L1 edge. However, only 3 of those matches have come in this millennium; the Viola have won 2 and lost 1. Yes, that one. However, they did win the away fixture 1-2 behind a dazzling brace from the, er, ever-reliable Cristian Tello after it was postponed due to snow for nearly a month.
The referee for this one is Daniele Martinelli, a 33-year-old making his Serie A debut. Hopefully he won’t provide us with ammunition to level against him in the future.
The match will be played on Sunday, 28 May 2017, at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Where do we even start? This will be the last match for manager Paulo Sousa and captain Gonzalo Rodríguez, and there are certainly several other members of the squad who’ve played their last in purple as well. Following an absolute drubbing at the hands of Napoli, this team has just 7 points from their last five matches, with the lowlight probably being a 2-0 loss to relegation-bound Palermo. Given the listlessness in some of these recent displays, it’s fair to ask if Sousa has lost the locker room; a lame duck coach frequently has trouble motivating his charges to do anything constructive. On the other hand, the Gigliati rather specialize in big wins on the final matchday, including a 1-5 demolition of Pescara in 2013 (which, if not for a referee-assisted victory for AC Milan over Siena (who played their hearts out, so much love for them) would have put Fiorentina into the Champions League and changed Viola history immeasurably over the past 4 years).
Sousa will have to convince his charges that the chance to jump Inter for a meaningless 7th place—as long as the Viola win and the Nerazzuri lose or draw to Udinese at the San Siro—is a chance worth taking, but at least he’ll have the luxury of consistency. The only injury doubt is Carlos Sánchez (knee), who will be replaced by Nenad Tomović if he can’t go. Otherwise, it’ll be the usual 3-4-2-1. There’s an outside chance that Borja Valero will drop deeper into midfield and allow Riccardo Saponara a rare start, but it’s exceedingly unlikely.
While the main reason is Sousa’s pragmatism in the face of adversity/obvious results, the other reason is that a Milan Badelj-Matías Vecino pairing in the middle should be sturdy enough to withstand the constant running of Zemanlandia. Fiorentina possess enough individual attacking quality to win battles across the pitch, so don’t expect the mister to alter his usual approach, especially when Federico Bernardeschi is likely to be left in lots of space due to Pescara’s fearless/suicidal attacking approach.
Although Zemanlandia looked like it might reverse the Delfini fortunes, what’s probably the cheapest squad in Serie A was ultimately unable to put up much of a fight. With just 17 points this season and a goal difference of -44, they’ve been very, very bad. So bad, in fact, that they got promising young manager Massimo Oddo fired in February, leading to the appointment of new boss Zdenek Zeman. Even the Czech’s vertical insistence, however, has failed to spark a turnaround, and Pescara own the worst defensive record in the league, having conceded 79 goals. They’re in last place and have been certain to be relegated pretty much all season, so this is one last hurrah in Serie A for the players, which could mean they’ll be loose and ready to play their hearts out.
Zeman does have a few selection issues to deal with, though, especially in defense. Centerback Guglielmo Stendardo (foot) and leftback Alessandro Crescenzi (hamstring) are set to miss out, as are midfielders Ahmad Benali (suspended) and Grigoris Kastanos (hamstring) and winger Simone Pepe (undisclosed). The dangerman is nippy winger Gianluca Caprari, who runs the channels well and will relish going at Tomović or a hobbled Sánchez. And Alberto Gilardino is also lurking on the bench; a Gila goal on the last day of the season seems like a very Viola thing to have happen.
Do we really need to tell you what to expect from a Zeman team? It’ll be non-stop running, a refusal to pass backwards or sideways, and at best glancing disdain for anything resembling defending. Their furiously forward nature means that they’ll give up space on the break, but they may do enough to stress the Viola in the wide areas, particularly if their attack-minded fullbacks Cristiano Biraghi and Francesco Zampano are given full license to rampage up the pitch and create overloads in the wide areas.
How to watch
TV: Weirdly enough, this will be televised on BeIn Español, so if you’re in Central or South America, or have a really extensive cable package, you may be able to watch this one.
Online: Otherwise, here is your lift of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
I have no damn clue. Maybe it’ll be the dullest imaginable scoreless draw. Maybe Fiorentina will romp to another huge win in the final game of the season, now that the players know they’re about to throw off the yoke of Sousa. Maybe Zdenek Zdeneks the Viola and Pescara play lights out in their final Serie A match for at least another year. Seriously, this one could go any number of ways, and I’m done trying to figure these things out until at least August.