It’s time to put away the costumes and focus on football again as Fiorentina welcome AS Roma to the Franchi. In the 180 matches I can find info for, the Viola trail in this matchup with a record of W55 D64 L61 with a goal difference of -15. More recently, though, the Lupi have been a nightmare for our heroes, sticking them with a foreboding W2 D1 L7 tag over their last 10 league matchups, although the good guys have had more success in cup competitions. In this fixture last year, the Gigliati slumped to a 2-4 defeat featuring a brace from then-Giallorosso Gerson, although they did win their most recent game 2-0 behind an absurdly gutsy defensive display.
The referee for this one is slakas favorite Luca Banti of Livorno. He’s one of the top refs in the league and is on the roster for continental competitions and internationals. In 4 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 19 (!) yellow cards and 2 red cards, which is about on par with his career norm: 4.7 yellow cards, 0.3 red cards, and 0.2 penalties per match. In their 29 interactions, the Viola are W15 D7 L7. Most recently, Banti handled last year’s 0-2 win at Udinese, in which he correctly handed Fiorentina a penalty to open the scoring.
The match will be played on Saturday, 3 November 2018, at 5:00 PM GMT/1:00 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for rain again, so we could see another slick pitch, which has given the Viola all manner of trouble these past two weeks, but at least the wind is expected to lay low.
It’s not quite crisis time in Florence yet, considering that the Viola are still sitting in 6th place, but the recent results have started a low rumble of discontent that will only grow without full points here. With just 5 points from their last 5 matches, including a draw to Cagliari at the Franchi that saw the perfect home record destroyed and a terrible performance at Torino last week, this feels like a team that’s teetering on the brink of catastrophe.
A lot of that has to do with manager Stefano Pioli, who’s overseen an excellent defense but has struggled to get his charges anywhere else to perform. His man-marking system in the middle pulls the midfielders out of shape and leaves them incapable of dictating play, while the forwards, outside of the plucky Federico Chiesa, have been completely MIA. After a failed experiment with Kevin Mirallas at striker last week, we should see Giovanni Simeone up top again, but the Argentine’s leash may be shorter than usual, leading to substitute appearances for Dušan Vlahović or even Cyril Théréau. On the wing, it’s a tossup between Marko Pjaca and Kevin Mirallas.
Given how putrid his charges were in possession against the Granata last week, it seems safe to say that Pioli will put a greater emphasis on passing in the middle. That could help Fiorentina control things against a wounded but dangerous opponent, but could also leave them open at the back. It’d surely be worth the risk, though, to probe for an opening rather than the hideous route one approach we’ve seen over the past few games. Even so, the focus will continue to be on quick transitions given Roma’s high defensive line. That could create enough space for Giovanni Simeone to attack in behind, which might help him get untracked.
It’s been a bit of a catastrophe for last year’s third place finishers, who find themselves in 8th place in the league on 15 points—even with the Viola, but 4 behind in goal difference—but they’ve been sorting things out of late, taking 10 points from their last 5 matches, including a comprehensive 3-1 win over Lazio in the derby and a credible 1-1 draw at Napoli last week. They look well set up to advance in the Champions League as well, sitting joint top with Real Madrid in Group G at the halfway point. However, with a trip to Moscow on Wednesday for CSKA, squad rotation could be in order.
Manager Eusebio di Francesco has to worry not only about keeping his players fresh, but also about how many of them are unavailable: CB Kostas Manolas (leg), RB Rick Karsdorp (leg), midfielder and captain Daniele de Rossi (knee), midfielder Javier Pastore (calf), and wingers Diego Perotti (calf) and Justin Kluivert (leg) are all unavailable. However, EdF still has plenty of firepower to run out in his new 4-2-3-1 shape, so the Viola will have to keep a close eye on a number of dangerous attackers.
The most obvious name, of course, is Edin Džeko, although the Bosnian has only scored twice this year. Stephan El Shaarawy leads the clubhouse in goals with 3 and Lorenzo Pellegrini has been a revelation at trequartista, so the Viola backline will have its hands full. The defense is probably the most vulnerable unit in this team, having conceded 13 goals already, so Pioli will have to figure out how to exploit that matchup.
How to watch
TV: Check the full international listings here, but you may need to make plans to stream this one.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This feels like it could be a pretty open game, especially if Roma keep a high line. I think that Cholito will finally break his drought and get back in the goals, helping inspire Fiorentina to a 2-1 win. I think that the set pieces are going to be big in this one, as the Viola defend them atrociously and haven’t scored from one in forever, so let’s say that Vitor Hugo gets his yearly goal as well, with Pellegrini pulling one back for the visitors.