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Sassuolo vs Fiorentina: Preview

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For an end-of-season, mid-table matchup, this could actually end up being an okay game. But it also could stink.

Empoli FC v US Sassuolo - Serie A
Auditioning?
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

For an end-of-season, mid-table matchup, this could actually end up being an okay game. But it also could stink.It’s 14th hosting 8th today in what is basically the definition of a midtable snoozer, with both side assured of avoiding both relegation and continental competition. Of course, Sassuolo boss Eusebio di Francesco is one of the leading candidates to replace Paulo Sousa next season, so he could gee up his side to make a good impression on his future employers.

This will only be the 8th ever meeting between the two sides; Fiorentina hold a distinct historical advantage, having gone W4 D3 L1 against their opponents, including a 2-1 win when they met earlier this season behind this outrageously classy Kaligol brace.

The referee for this one is Claudio Gavillucci, who’s handled a total of 3 Viola matches previously. The most notable of these is certainly the 1-1 against Crotone, which he allowed to continue despite a deluge of Old Testament proportions. Overall, the good guys are W1 D2 L0. In 32 career Serie A matches, he’s issued 13 penalties and 7 red cards, indicating a rather itchy trigger finger.

The match will be played on Sunday, 7 May 2017, at 3 PM CST/9 AM EST, at the Mapei Stadium in Sassuolo.

Sassuolo

It’s been a season to forget for the Emiliani, as they washed out of the Europa League group stages in embarrassing fashion and have slumped to 14th in Serie A (with a -8 goal difference) after such an impressive campaign last time out. Injuries have certainly played a part in the Neroverdi struggles, but it’s still a significant letdown for the hipster favorites. They have improved recently, going W2 D2 L1 in their last 5, including a 4-match unbeaten run.

Manager Eusebio di Francesco still has a quite a ward of injured players, particularly in midfield. Pending the injury report tomorrow, he could be without leftback Cristian Dell’Orco (leg), midfielders Lorenzo Pellegrini (thigh), Simone Missiroli (leg), and Luca Mazzitelli (leg), and forward Grégoire Defrel (leg). The upshot is that former Viola players Alberto Aquilani and Alessandro Matri will probably be called upon against their old employer, which never bodes well.

Di Francesco will, as always, use a 4-3-3. Leftback Federico Peluso bombs forward well from deep, and the midfield will grind away as ever, but, as you’d expect from a di Francesco squad, the quality is in the attack. Domenico Berardi is the star man, although there’s a whole stable of talent at the position, what with Matteo Napolitano, Federico Ricci, and Antonino Ragusa also available. The team will rely on their attacking skill to unlock the backline and feed the ball to them whenever possible, although their positive approach can see them caught out on the break at times.

Fiorentina

There’ve been some high points in this Viola season, but it’s mostly been a series of letdowns so crushing that each one seems somehow worse than the last, culminating in last week’s toothless 0-2 loss to Palermo; Fiorentina are W2 D1 L2 over their last 5. The team already seems to be thinking about their vacations, although some of the Gigliati will treat these remaining 4 matches as an audition for next year, especially with di Francesco watching them.

Paulo Sousa will welcome back Gonzalo Rodríguez and Nikola Kalinić, although the absence of Davide Astori (suspended) will cause some headaches. Otherwise, though, he’ll have his first choice XI; the question is whether he’ll start his best players or leave them on the bench for a second week running. Hopefully he’ll bring back Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa, although Khouma Babacar will almost certainly return to his role in the dugout, and Riccardo Saponara will likely continue to languish as a late sub.

It’ll be 3-4-2-1, as ever. Borja Valero will probably operate in the advanced role he still doesn’t seem quite as comfortable in, although he’ll drop back to overload the Neroverdi midfield. Berna should stay higher up and wide on the right to exploit the space behind the attack-minded Peluso, which is probably the Viola’s best chance of making an impact on this match. Unless, of course, you like endless and repetitious passing across the defense, interrupted only by the occasional mad scramble to clear after giving the ball away in a dangerous spot. You know, typical Fiorentina.

Possible lineups

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How to watch

TV: Nope.

Online: Here is a list of safe, legal, and reliable streams.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

There’s no way Fiorentina can keep a clean sheet with Berardi matched up against Tomovic or Salcedo, so let’s make it a 3-2 to the visitors as they try to impress their next manager. I’ll say it’s Berardi opening the scoring, with Kalinic equalizing and then providing the go-ahead goal, only for Berardi to cancel the advantage back out before Berna hits in a late winner. But it’ll probably be a lot more boring than all that.

Forza Viola!