It’s a bottom-half-of-the-table clash as Hellas Verona host Fiorentina. In their last 10 competitive meetings (there was a preseason friendly that ended scoreless back in 2012), the Viola are W7 D2 L1, including a 0-2 victory in the most recent installment of this feature which briefly propelled them to 3rd place in Serie A.
The referee for this one is Antonio Damato, under whose watch the Viola are W13 D2 L12. He’s issued 47 bookings, 5 sendings-off, and 9 penalties in those 27 matches. His last action with the Viola was in that 4-2 loss to Inter Milan this past November when he issued an indefensible red card to Gonzalo Rodríguez and generally screwed the Gigliati over whenever possible.
The match will be played on Sunday, 10 September 2017, at 2 PM GMT/9 AM EST in the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi in Verona.
Serie A hasn’t been particularly welcoming to the recently-returned Gialloblu, as they’ve managed only a point thus far after a 1-3 loss to Napoli at home and a scoreless draw at Crotone. That’s good enough for 13th place in the league, although it’s a bit absurd to look too closely at the table after just two matches.
New manager Fabio Pecchia favors a 4-3-3 approach. As you might expect from a recently-promoted side, he emphasizes organization at the back and quick transitions in attack. Lacking in pace at the back, he’s likely to play a deep line, enticing the Viola to leave gaps at the back which a tricky pair of wingers can exploit. With plenty of height in the team, he’ll also emphasize set pieces. He’ll be without centerback Matteo Bianchetti (back), leftback Gian Filippo Felicioli (hamstring), midfielder Franco Zuculini (knee), and winger Alessio Cerci (hamstring), so he may need to shuffle some pieces around, particularly in defense.
The dangerman is captain and striker Giamaolo Pazzini, who has the team’s only goal this season. He scored 23 in Serie B last year and is the consummate poacher. He also netted 34 goals for Fiorentina in his 4 years in Florence, and has scored 5 goals in 14 matches against them since. Cerci’s injured, but Rômulo will buzz around the midfield as well, adding another chance for a former employee to get one over on his old team. Of the non-ex players, Daniele Verde operates on the right wing and looks to cut inside onto his left foot; his flat-out pace always makes him dangerous.
Yikes. It’s been a rough two weeks of Serie A for the Viola, who sit at the very bottom of the table, winless and with a -4 goal difference. The defense has looked woeful and the attack disjointed. The only consolation to the fans (and maybe the players themselves) is that the squad is so new that it’s almost certainly not had time to train together enough to form a cohesive unit; as the season progresses, that cohesion will slowly increase until this becomes a dangerous young team.
Stefano Pioli has been tasked with ensuring such a result, and the early returns haven’t been impressive. Of course, the calls for his head are awfully premature: Fiorentina were never going to challenge for the Champions League this year under the best of circumstances, and Pioli is clearly trying to build for the future. For now, though, he’ll have to do it without Valentin Eysseric (ankle), although Riccardo Saponara (ankle) is finally healthy.
Pioli will continue with his 4-2-3-1. Bruno Gaspar is likely to go at rightback, but new signing Vincent Laurini could get the nod as well. Germán Pezzella looks like a much better partner for Davide Astori and should be penciled in as the starter from here on out over Vitor Hugo. The midfield should continue unchanged unless Pioli wants to drop Marco Benassi deeper, which would result in either Jordan Veretout or Milan Badelj dropping to the bench. Gil Dias seems likely to start in place of Eysseric, while Giovanni Simeone should continue up top.
How to watch
TV: Doesn’t look like it. Sorry, folks.
Online: Here is a list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The Viola are going to figure it out at some point, and this is as good a time as any. Let’s go with a 0-2 win as Simeone and Benassi open their Viola accounts via Federico Chiesa cross and a long-range blast, respectively.