The 9th place team in Serie A travels to meet the 10th place team in this decidedly midtable matchup, but there’s a bit more at stake than you might think. Both these teams are striving for the Europa League places and, after losing their first two league games, both need all the points they can acquire against direct rivals.
Over their past 10 meetings in Serie A, Fiorentina are undefeated against Atalanta, having won 8 on the trot before a pair of goalless draws last season. In those past 10, the good guys have scored 23 goals and allowed 6; there’ve also been 6 sendings off in those fixtures. The last time Atalanta won in Florence was all the way back in 2005.
The referee for this one will be Luca Pairetto of Turin suburb Nichelino. He’s handled just one Fiorentina match in his career, the 0-1 at Crotone last year that Nikola Kalinić won at the death. In 23 Serie A matches, he’s handed out 109 yellow cards, 11 red cards, and 10 penalties.
The match will be played on Sunday, 24 September 2017, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Fresh off a loss at arch rival Juventus, Fiorentina nonetheless showed signs of improvement, stymieing a lethal Bianconeri attack for long stretches and hanging on despite losing a man. After a rocky beginning, the Viola defense has started to solidify nicely, and the midfield is doing a good job of screening the center of the pitch. It’s farther forward, though, where the problems begin; 5 of the club’s 8 goals this season came against hapless Hellas Verona, and the attack has been a bit of a mess.
Manager Stefano Pioli will have to plan around the absence of Milan Badelj (suspension). While he could drop Marco Benassi farther back into a more natural position, he’ll probably opt for the defensive solidity of Carlos Sánchez next to Jordan Veretout, especially given Atalanta’s rugged midfield. Bruno Gaspar will probably get the nod over Vincent Laurini, whose lack of fitness may have been why he was subbed off against Juve, but the defense will otherwise be unchanged. We’ve heard murmurs that Gil Dias may earn a start this week, which would probably mean that Cyril Théréau would move central and Benassi to the bench.
Against an Atalanta side that features the lethal pace and movement of Papu Gómez, a high defensive line seems suicidal, so we could see another deep defensive block with the midfield sitting solidly in front, leaving the the wingers and strikers to press the defense. Against a well-drilled Dea back three, attacking width will be key to stretch them out and create space for Giovanni Simeone to exploit. Otherwise, it should the usual 4-2-3-1 approach from Pioli.
La Dea have been in impressive form after losing to AS Roma and Napoli in the first two weeks. A 3-0 spanking of Everton in the Europa League and a 5-1 romp over Crotone on Wednesday have illustrated just how dangerous they are, although they’ve only scored 4 goals in their other 4 league games. Still, though, the fact that they’ve hung onto as much of last year’s Cinderella side as they have means that everybody knows his responsibilities, and they’ll be tough to break down.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini is missing midfielder João Schmidt, but has the rest of his squad available. He’ll set them out in the usual 3-4-1-2. Expect lots of fouls in the middle on Veretout from a powerful midfield trio of Bryan Cristante, Marten de Roon, and Jasmin Kurtić, who’ll try to impose themselves on the match and then look to Gómez in the channels. The little Argentine already has 3 goals and 2 assists, so stopping him is paramount to shutting down la Dea.
However, there’s more to Atalanta than just the Papu. Andrea Petagna is a big, powerful front man who feasts on crosses and set pieces and has scored twice this year already. Gasperini can also call on Josip Iličić, who’d surely love to belt one past the club that unceremoniously ditched him this summer. Overall, though, this one could be more of a grind, as Gasperini will want to sit back at the Franchi and play on the break. This one could devolve into a lot of long balls out of defense to bypass a congested midfield.
How to watch
TV: For the second consecutive week, Fiorentina will appear on real television in the US (BeIn Sports) and the UK (BT Sport). Check your local listings here for more info.
Online: Here is your list of safe, legal, and reliable streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Marco Sportiello has been in good form recently and should play out of his mind against his former club and Gasperini, who benched him. Therefore, in true Ted fashion, I’m predicting a 2-0 win to the good guys, with a Simeone header and a Veretout blast for the goals.