Fresh off a feel-good and ugly win at the San Siro against AC Milan, Fiorentina has to refocus for a rare midweek match against Parma. In 61 matches dating back to 1929, the Viola hold a W23 D21 L17 edge, scoring 86 goals and conceding 66. Over their last 10 meetings in the league, the Tuscans have managed to go W4 D5 L1. The most recent edition of this fixture came back in 2015, when the good guys romped to a 3-0 win with goals from Gonzalo Rodríguez, Alberto Gilardino, and Mohamed Salah.
The referee for this one is Michael Fabbri (not the standup comedian from Brighton) of Ravenna. In 6 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 24 yellow cards and 2 penalties; he’s been awarding spot kicks at a much higher rate than usual this year, so keep an eye out for that. He’s handled 8 Fiorentina matches, resulting in a record of W4 D2 L2; his most recent outing with the Viola resulted in a 1-1 draw at Torino. As you may recall, that one was a bit of a mess for the official, who sent off Walter Mazzarri in the first half and completely ignored a pretty clear handball in the area from Roberto Soriano late on, as well as a full 90 minutes of the Granata midfield bodying their Viola counterparts.
The match will be played Wednesday, 26 December 2018, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a pleasant day, not too cold, with nary a cloud in sight and little wind. In short, should be a perfect day for a match.
Following as dire a two month stretch as this team has suffered in recent memory, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing. Saturday’s gritty win over a short-staffed Milan catapulted Fiorentina to 7th in the table on 25 points. That’s good for the final Europa League spot, and although they only lead Sassuolo on goal difference, they’re also just 3 points behind Lazio for the final Champions League spot in 4th. With a record over their last five matches of W2 D2 L1 and a 3-match unbeaten streak, maybe, maaaaayyyyybbbeeee this group has finally turned the corner.
While you have to applaud manager Stefano Pioli for sticking to his tactics, the one-dimensionality of his approach looks like it’s hurt more than it’s helped. Given the punishing nature of the match against the Rossoneri, he may rotate his side a bit, with Edimilson Fernandes the most likely to begin from the bench. Gerson should draw a start, whether on the wing or in central midfield, and we could see appearances from Valentin Eysseric, Christian Nørgaard, or Bryan Dabo in relief of tired legs.
Since Parma like to press high before dropping back to sit deep and also frequently man-mark in the middle, this looks like it could be another scuffling Pioli special. Gerson’s ability to carry the ball forward from midfield could prove crucial, and Jordan Veretout will again be tasked with calming things down a bit in the middle. The matchup to watch is probably Federico Chiesa against Gobbi; Massimo is about as wily as they come but won’t be able to match Fede’s athleticism. Expect another match in which the Viola try to grind down their opponent rather than dazzling them.
In their first season back in Serie A since declaring bankruptcy in 2015 and getting shunted to Serie D, the Crociati have looked like they belong in the top flight, surging to 12th place with 22 points. That is, as you may have noticed, just 3 behind Fiorentina, so this is a team very much in the hunt for Europe, although they’ve cooled off substantially after a red hot start; with just 1 win in their past 5 and 4 straight matches without a victory, including draws to bottom-feeders Bologna and Chievo Verona, the shine is coming off a bit.
To turn things around, manager Roberto D’Aversa will will have to forgo CB Bruno Alves (suspension) and CM Alberto Grassi (knee) in this one. That could mean that former Viola man Massimo Gobbi gets a start at leftback as Riccardo Gagliolo slides into central defense. That could throw a defense that’s been quite solid off its stride, but the real problem for the Crociati is in attack, where they’ve scored an anemic 16 goals.
The dangermen are winger Gervinho (5 goals) and striker Roberto Inglese (4 goals, 1 assist). As a team, Parma have pressed very high and man marked opposing midfields before dropping deep. Both approaches lead to quick transitions and counter attacks, where the pace of the front three is crucial. The midfielders and fullbacks also get forward very quickly, frequently leaving the defense rather open in favor of overwhelming opponents with waves of runners. However, it seems that the league has figured this approach out a bit, judging by recent results, so hopefully Pioli has taken note of how to frustrate them.
How to watch
TV: Not likely, but here are the full international listings if you want to check.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Given the diverging form of both sides and Parma’s offensive struggles, this feels like another scrappy 1-0 win for the good guys. While the Crociati will threaten occasionally on the break, Fiorentina should have enough quality to make the difference in a match that will likely be choppy; with Chiesa, Gerson, and Mirallas, the Viola have enough guys who can beat their defender and get forward, which, in a match as likely to be rather basic, will probably be the deciding factor. With a rotated defense, this feels like the sort of match where Giovanni Simeone gets a goal, which would make 3 in 4 matches for him.