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Lazio vs Fiorentina: Preview

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Fiorentina have yet another chance to get their first win away from the Franchi.

ACF Fiorentina v Atalanta BC - Serie A
Fully recovered and ready to go.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Fresh off a controversial 2-0 win over Atalanta, Fiorentina hit the road again and head for the capital, where they’ll take on Lazio. In 148 meetings, the Viola have managed a record of W49 D42 L57 with a -13 goal difference. Over their last 10 matches in Serie A, they’re a dismal W2 D2 L6, including a wild 3-4 loss in Florence last year (featuring a Jordan Veretout hat trick) and a 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

The referee for this one is Daniele Orsato of Vicenza, who’s considered one of Italy’s top referees; he’s in the Champions League rotation and handles international matches as well. In 4 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 15 yellow cards, but nary a red or a penalty. Under his watch, the Viola are W9 D7 L11 in the league. Most recently, he oversaw the scoreless draw against SPAL that snapped the record-setting Viola run last spring. In the ony Fiorentina-Lazio match he’s ever reffed ended 1-0 to Fiorentina back in 2008 behind a Fabio Liverani-assisted Giampaolo Pazzini goal.

The match will be played on Sunday, 7 October 2018, at 1:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Lazio

The Biancocelesti are following up an impressive campaign last year with a solid outing this time around. They sit 6th in Serie A with 12 points, compiling 4 wins and a loss in their last 5 league matches. That loss, though, was a 3-1 reversal to AS Roma in the derby, and to add to their misery, they were trounced 4-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday, finishing with just 9 men. Whether these two stinging defeats lead to panic or to a renewed focus, though, remains to be seen.

Manager Simone Inzaghi will have most of his top players available, although LB Jordan Lukaku (knee) is out. Inzaghi will set up in his usual 3-5-2 that features Ciro Immobile playing as the prima punta with Luis Alberto roaming behind him and Sergej Milinković-Savić breaking forward from midfield to join the attack. Because the squad was rotated for the Europa league fixture, we’ll probably see something like Lazio’s first XI.

Stylistically, the Aquilotti like to run the channels with their attackers and get their wingbacks well forward. Their defense is the weak spot, but an intelligent midfield have masked that. The attack, which was Serie A’s best last year, has rather stalled, scoring just 10 goals so far, but there’s plenty of quality in the side to burst out of the shell at any given moment. Inzaghi will want to get his attackers in space, either behind the defense or on the edge of the box to shoot, so the Viola back line and midfield will need to keep things very tight indeed.

Fiorentina

Fresh off a controversial win over Atalanta which featured a glaring dive from Federico Chiesa to win a penalty, the Viola are riding high in third place with 13 points, leading both Inter Milan and Sassuolo in goal difference. Over their past 5 matches, they’re W2 D1 L2. They’ve earned a single point away from the Stadio Artemio Franchi, though, leading to questions about whether or not they have the mindset to really challenge for a Champions League spot due to their youthful (and again, this is the youngest team in the league) mentality.

Stefano Pioli will have the entire squad at his disposal, which means we’ll probably see something resembling the usual first XI. The only real question is whether Marko Pjaca or Kevin Mirallas will start on the left wing, as the former seems to be at the top of the pecking order but the latter has shown some oomph off the bench. As usual, we should see the 4-3-3/3-4-3 hybrid shape that feature Marco Benassi moving to a wingback position on the right from central midfield, while nominal rightback Nikola Milenković tucks in to form a back 3 in attack.

Given the weather—it’s been a wet couple of days in Rome and the rain looks set to continue—Pioli may eschew fancy passing in the middle even more than he usually does and hope that a member of his mobile tridente can create something against a big, clunky defender. However, Lazio is not a good team to concede too much space against, so this could become a back-and-forth affair that mostly bypasses the midfield as both teams hold high lines and wait for their opponents to slip, literally and figuratively, on the wet grass.

Possible formations

Caceres or Bastos; Pjaca or Miralllas
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How to watch

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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

With the pitch likely to be soaked, this feels like a low-scoring affair. However, I’ll call it as a 0-1 to the visitors behind a scrappy Giovanni Simeone goal created by Chiesa. The real story, though, will be a heroic defensive effort from Fiorentina’s backline, which will frustrate Immobile and company despite allowing a few good chances. I really hope I’m right, as I don’t want to be surrounded by gloating Laziali all day.

Forza Viola!