Thank goodness that we’re done with international breaks until February, so we can return out attention to the football that matters. Fiorentina kicks back off with a bang, traveling to Bologna for the ever-fiery Derby dell’Appennino. These two have met 142 times since 1931, with the Viola leading the matchup with a record of W56 D45 L41 and a +34 goal difference. In their last 10 meetings, the Gigliati are W8 D1 L1, with triumphs in both of last year’s fixtures, including a 1-2 victory in the Dell’Ara last year which featured each team scoring directly from a corner.
The referee for this one is Marco di Bello of Brindisi, who’s in his 8th season in the top flight. In 6 league games this year, he’s handed out 17 yellow cards, 2 red cards (both straight reds), and a penalty, which is more or less in line with his career statistics in Serie A. In the 4 Viola matches he’s reffed, the good guys have won 3 and lost 1. Most recently, he oversaw the 0-1 win at Cagliari last year which featured a sending off, a yellow card for a dive in the area, a yellow card for a player entering the match too far from midfield, and 6 minutes of stoppage time at the end; we’re saying that you shouldn’t be shocked if he factors prominently in this one.
The match will be played on Sunday, 25 November 2018, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST at the Stadio Renato Dell’Ara in Bologna. The forecast calls for a grey day in Tuscany with a chance of rain, so the surface could be quite slick.
The Rossoblu have been pretty ragged this year, limping to 16th place with 10 points, which puts them just 1 ahead of Empoli and the relegation zone. They’ve been even worse than their Tuscan rivals, managing just 3 points from their past 5 matches, and new boss Filippo Inzaghi has surely heard the vociferous calls from the Oscar-Meyer faithful calling for his job; a win here would surely quiet the chorus and buy the former AC Milan hitman some more time.
Inzaghi will have his full squad available, so expect to see his usual 3-5-2. Keep an eye out for ex-Viola loanees Sebastian de Maio and Diego Falcinelli; while they were both quite underwhelming in Florence, they’d relish a chance to show up their former outfit. Otherwise, the dangermen are strikers Federico Santander, whose 4 goals and 2 assists lead the club; on-loan Juventus attacker Riccardo Orsolini, who’s got 2 goals despite working mostly as a sub; and wingback Federico Mattiello, an Atalanta loanee whose crossing and creativity out wide are crucial to his side’s attack.
The Veltri (Greyhounds) generally set out to defend deep, get compact, and force opponents wide, which they’ve mostly done quite well, although they’ve had trouble picking up number 10s. They’ve had trouble tracking runners from midfield too, so Marco Benassi and Gerson are decent bets to get in the goals. In attack, they try to build up through the middle but often run out of options and go route one to the Paraguayan Santander, who’s a load up top. They’re quite positive, often getting 4 or more players into the box, but leave themselves open to counters far too often. They can threaten from set pieces, which is a serious concern for a Viola side that’s struggled defending them. Finally, Inzaghi occasionally chances shape to a 4-3-1-2, so keep an eye out for that if the Viola go ahead.
With a miserable return of 4 points from their past 5, including four straight 1-1 draws, it’s fair to say that Fiorentina find themselves a bit at sea, especially with the odious Juventus journeying to the Artemio Franchi next week. After a hot start, this team has cooled off and now sits 9th in Serie A with 17 points, although they’re only 2 points behind AS Roma and the final Europa League slot. However, the Viola will have to sort out a lot of problems if they want to make a run at continental competition next year.
Manager Stefano Pioli is surely feeling some pressure, as his attack has looked toothless and his midfield disorganized. Too, he’ll be without captain and season MVP Germán Pezzella (hamstring), who picked up a knock with Argentina. We’ve heard rumors that he may try a 4-2-3-1 instead of the usual 4-3-3 in an effort to shake some goals out of his charges, but we won’t believe it until we see it. The real questions are how the mister will cover for Pezzella and whether Marko Pjaca or Kevin Mirallas will start on the wing.
While we all want to see Pioli change up his tactics a bit, this seems like the sort of match where his usual plans should work perfectly. Gerson and Benassi should cause problems motoring in behind and pressing Ádám Nagy, who’s very talented but often gets isolated in the middle. Federico Chiesa should have permission to drift inside as a 10 as well and cause all sorts of havoc in central positions as well. The real question is how the defense will hold up without Pezzella, as Bologna have several different options up top that Inzaghi can mix and match to take advantage of any matchup he likes.
How to watch
TV: DAZN and BeIn may pick this one up depending on where you are; check here for the full listings, but you should probably make plans to stream this one on the internet.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
While there are plenty of factors—i.e. Pezzella’s absence, the team’s current form, the difficulty of returning from an international break—that could derail Fiorentina, the opponent sure looks like the perfect one to finally get a big win against, as the Viola have what looks like a big advantage in both tactics and overall quality. This current group is capable of no-showing at the most inopportune moments, but I’ll call it a scrappy 2-0 win for the good guys behind strikes from Gerson and Benassi, with Giovanni Simeone getting an assist.