Friday night lights may evoke high school football in Texas for some of us, but this week it’s the setting for Fiorentina’s trip to Frosinone. The only meetings between these sides came in the 2015-2016 season, when the Viola blasted the Canarini 4-1 at the Franchi (a win that saw them regain capolista status) but slumped to a scoreless draw away.
The referee for this one is Fabrizio Pasqua of Tivoli. His totals this year in 4 Serie A matches—19 yellow cards, 1 penalty—are more or less in line with his body of work in the top flight: 3.5 yellow cards, 0.04 red cards, and 0.06 penalties per match; basically, he doesn’t stick his neck out too far, which should benefit the hosts in this circumstance. He’s only handled two Fiorentina matches in his career, both last year. The first was a 3-1 loss at Sampdoria, followed by a 1-0 over Benevento in the team’s first match back after Davide Astori died.
The match will be played on Friday, 9 November 2018, at 7:30 PM GMT/2:30 PM EST at the Stadio Benito Stirpe in Frosinone. It should be a beautiful evening for football in the seat of the province: clear, with a slight breeze and a bit of an autumn chill.
In their second-ever Serie A campaign, the Ciociari are scuffling as much as you’d expect from the third-most cheaply assembled team in the league. Sitting in 19th place with just 6 points and a miserable -15 goal difference after 11 matches, it’s hard not to see them dropping right back to Serie B. Over the last 5 matches, though, they’ve been a lot better, to the tune of W1 D2 L2, including a big first win via a shellacking SPAL in Romagna as well as draws against Empoli and Parma.
Manager Moreno Longo always knew that keeping this side up was a tough ask, and it’ll be tougher with the long-term absences of midfielder Paolo Sammarco (suspension), winger Luca Paganini (knee), and forward Federico Dionisi (knee). The Turin-born mister favors a 3-4-3 formation featuring a rugged backline, a feisty midfield, and a lot of pace on the wings. Keep an eye out for former Viola goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, who made a surprise move to the side, but the real danger man is right winger Camillo Ciano, whose 3 goals and 3 assists lead the team. Former Arsenal prospect Joel Campbell and Italy U20 star Andrea Pinamonti are the other notable names.
With the 3rd-lowest rates of possession and pass completion in Serie A to go with the 2nd-fewest shots (in total and on target), you’d think that Fiorentina could boot this side out of the park. After all, being joint-second worst in goals scored and conceded indicates that this group of players is simply out of its depth. However, the Giallazzurri are unbeaten in 3 and set up perfectly to frustrate their visitors: they defend with all 11 players, aren’t afraid to foul and break up the game, and have the pace to cause problems on the break. Longo will probably tell his players to sit deep and try to counter through his quick wide players, although he’ll also be eyeing Fiorentina’s penchant for allowing chances from set pieces.
It’s a dreary time to be a Viola fan, as the Tuscans have managed to go W1 D3 L1 over their past 5 matches. Their inability to score from open play—if you don’t count the obvious outlier against Chievo Verona, 5 open-play goals in 10 matches is, um, concerning—has fans tearing their hair out, even though the Tuscans sit 8th with 16 points, well within striking distance of Andrea Della Valle’s stated target of a 7th-place finish. Also, the side has yet to win on the road, a streak which is reaching almost comical proportions.
If manager Stefano Pioli is feeling some heat, he hasn’t let it show too much, though, as he’s stuck to his guns and refused to make too many changes. The only injury news is the return of Christian Nørgaard (knee), although the Dane probably won’t feature as he gets back up to speed after missing a month. The question that the mister faces is the same that’s plagued his side for most of the year: who can step up in attack besides Federico Chiesa? None of Marko Pjaca, Kevin Mirallas, or Valentin Eysseric have added anything, and with Giovanni Simeone—the only healthy striker on the roster with any experience—unable to hit a lake from a boat, it’s been dire going forward.
We’ve heard whispers that Pioli could try out a 4-2-3-1 instead of the usual 4-3-3, packing Mirallas and Pjaca into the side along with Fede and Cholito, but we’d bank on the 4-3-3 remaining the default for now. There’s an outside chance that Gerson will get a start on the right wing after a strong performance against AS Roma, but he’ll probably work in midfield again. With Frosinone expected to sit deep, the onus is on Jordan Veretout to control proceedings and move the ball to the right spot quickly so that the attackers can make something happen; if the Canarini can gum up the Frenchman’s passing, they’ll like their odds to earn at least a point with a deep defense and a physical approach.
How to watch
TV: Sky Sports, DAZN, Eleven Sports 2, and BeIn are all carrying this one in various parts of the world. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina, despite being the visiting team, should control this one from start to finish. Pioli will want an early goal to force the hosts forward, but this one looks like it could get awfully scrappy. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of cards as Frosinone try to break up the Viola’s passing fluency (such as it is) and rattle the younger side as they defend with 5 at the back and 4 in a bank in front of that. While the approach may be right, the sheer difference in quality should see the Gigliati through, although they won’t make it easy on themselves. We also expect set pieces to prove crucial; Fiorentina defend them terribly and Sportiello struggles against them as well. Therefore, we think Nikola Milenković is a good bet to open the scoring, with a long-range drive from a midfielder (let’s say Gerson) resulting in a 0-2 win for the good guys.