Fiorentina will begin its Serie A season with a trip to the San Siro to face Inter Milan in a match which proves that fate (or more realistically, whoever rigs the league schedules) has a flair for narrative. The Viola hired ex-Nerazzuri manager Stefano Pioli to right the ship, while the Nerazzuri snapped Viola midfield mainstays Borja Valero and Matías Vecino, which makes for plenty of storylines on each side.
Over their past 10, the Gigliati are W6 L4 to their hosts, although the most recent meeting in Milan resulted in a 4-2 loss. There have also been 6 red cards issued in those past 10 matches, as well as an average of 4.1 goals scored, so this tends to be a very exciting fixture.
The referee for this one is Paolo Tagliavento, who’s not exactly a popular man around Florence. Under his watch, the Gigliati are W9 D6 L13, including 2 losses last season in which he made some abject decisions. We wouldn’t be shocked to see more of the same.
The match will be played on Sunday, 20 August 2017, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (better known as the San Siro) in Milan, Italy.
Following a chaotic outing last season, the Suning Commerce Group have pumped a whole lot of cash into the Nerazzuri, incurring a net loss of over €33 million in this window and bringing veteran manager Luciano Spalletti aboard to oversee things. As a result, expectations are high on the blue side of Milan, although few pundits seem to consider them a threat for the Champions League places, much less the Scudetto.
Spalletti will have the full squad at his disposal, which means we should have a decent idea of what to expect. He usually runs out a 4-2-3-1 that’s noted for being quite fluid in the attacking phase and occasionally a bit absent on the back end. In his first game with a new team and at home, he very well may tell his players to focus on keeping the ball and controlling the match to put Fiorentina’s untested backline under pressure, although such a strategy would expose his own inadequacies in defense as well.
He also has several choices to make about the names in his first XI. €20 million centerback Martin Skriniar should start over Jeison Murillo and Andrea Ranocchia, while new boy Dalbert should fill in at leftback, but the names in central midfield are unclear. Roberto Gagliardini is a likely starter, but any of Valero, Vecino, Charles Kondogbia, or Marcelo Brozović could partner him. Further forward, João Mário will probably work as the number 10, with Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perišić on the wings, although Éder could also get a start here. Up top, captain (seriously) Mauro Icardi is the primary dangerman.
Well, it’s been a heck of a summer. Pretty sure we can agree on that. After having our hearts ripped out at the start of the mercato with the departures of Federico Bernardeschi, Gonzalo Rodríguez, and Borja, Pantaleo Corvino has done a very good job of building what looks to be an exciting and competitive (albeit in another year or two) squad on a shoestring budget, which has perked the tifosi up quite a bit in the past few weeks.
New mister Stefano Pioli has the advantage in this one of knowing the opponent pretty well, as he coached them last season. He’ll probably use his favorite 4-2-3-1 formation and try to focus on protecting the defense with the midfield, then transitioning quickly down the wings. Given the difference in payroll, budget, and (sigh) quality between the sides, it’d be hard to blame Pioli for setting out with a rather negative approach focused on counter-attacking. He’ll be without Riccardo Saponara (leg) and Federico Chiesa (suspension), which definitely puts a damper on the attack.
Just like his opposite number, the Gigliati boss has some choices to make. Vitor Hugo should partner Davide Astori in the middle, as Nikola Milenković is an untested teenager and Germán Pezzella probably won’t have settled in enough to feature. Bruno Gaspar is the likely choice at rightback, although Nenad Tomović’s defensive “steadiness” could be preferred. At leftback, Cristiano Biraghi is the better player, but Maxi Olivera’s familiarity with the rest of the side could hand him the early start. Milan Badelj seems a lock for midfield, but Marco Benassi may be pushed forward, opening space for Jordan Veretout or even Carlos Sánchez. In Chiesa’s absence, Valentin Eysseric, Benassi, Matías Fernández, Rafik Zekhnini, and Ianis Hagi could all work in the attacking three, while Gil Dias probably hasn’t trained with the team enough yet to merit a start. Khouma Babacar will probably get the nod here over new boy Giovanni Simeone up top.
How to watch
TV: Nope. Nope nope nope.
Online: Here is a list of safe, legal, and reliable streams. As always, we will delete any links to illegal streams in the comments, and probably ban anyone who posts them. If you’re the Twitter type, give us a follow, as we’ll be providing live commentary via tweets. Otherwise, keep it here, because we’ll publish a comment thread so you can hang out with all your friends at Viola Nation.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Blech. It’s hard to see this defense keeping a clean sheet against Icardi and company, so let’s cross our fingers and hope for a 2-2 stunner, with Icardi and (of course) Vecino on the mark for the hosts, while Babacar and Benassi pull the visitors level late. Please?