Fresh off a bizarre and (ahem) controversial 0-2 loss to Juventus last week that nonetheless showed some promise, Fiorentina are back on the road to take on Atalanta. Given la Dea’s recent resurgence, it’s a bit surprising that in their past 10 meetings, the Viola are W7 D3, although the past three in a row have been draws. This is a surprisingly fiery matchup, though: we’ve seen 9 red cards in the past 19 matches between them.
The referee for this one is the Neapolitan Fabio Maresca. In 12 Serie A matches this year, he’s issued 40 yellow cards, 6 red cards, and 3 penalties, so expect to see him front and center. You may recall him from the 2-1 loss at Crotone earlier this season as well; the only other Viola match he’s reffed ended in a 0-3 victory at Chievo Verona last year.
The match will be played Sunday, 18 February 2018, at 5 PM GMT/12 PM EST, at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
Sitting pretty in 8th place, Atalanta are having a pretty good year. They’ve earned 10 points in their past 5 matches, with the only loss coming to Napoli. They also pushed Borussia Dortmund in their Europa League match yesterday before succumbing to a 3-2 loss in extra time, although they’re well set up on away goals for the return leg in Bergamo.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini has built a typically solid side that usually sets up in a 3-5-2, although he’s been known to vary his formation on occasion. The centerbacks are a well-drilled group, the midfield stays in position while moving the ball around nicely, and wingbacks work hard and stretch play well, but let’s be honest: this team is all about Papu Gómez (4 goals and 6 assists). Gasperini has found him a perfect partner in (gulp) ex-Viola man Josip Iličić (7 goals and 6 assists in Serie A, and a brace against BVB), with Bryan Cristante (7 goals) working as the number 10 behind them. Both “strikers” tend to pull wide and work the channels, which confuses opposing defenders like a charm.
Gasperini will be without star centerback Mattia Caldara (face) and midfielder Luca Rizzo (knee). The former will probably be replaced by José Luis Palomino, although Gianluca Mancini (yes, another ex-Fiorentina player) could fill the gap as well. Keep an eye out on the left for the pace and trickery of Leonardo Spinazzola as well. Gasperini will probably try to run his strikers through the channels, keeping his midfield pivot well back and leaving the attacking to Gómez, Iličić, and Cristante, with some support from the wingbacks. The centerbacks are all dangerous on set-pieces as well, so Fiorentina will have to be smart and disciplined in every phase of play.
The Juve loss was BS and we all know that, but it also presents us with some questions. For example, has Stefano Pioli changed his shape to accommodate massive young defender Nikola Milenković, who was fantastic against the Bianconeri? Has Gil Dias finally vaulted Cyril Théréau in the hierarchy? What shape will the mister select, a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3? With just 4 points from their last 5, the Viola know they have to turn things around if they want to compete for Europe (even though that’s probably a pipe dream at this point), and the following five games are against mid- and lower-table sides, which means the Viola need to get maximum points before running up against a bunch of top teams towards season’s end.
Pioli will be without Vincent Laurini (foot), so it seems likely that Milenković will make his third consecutive start. Gil Dias, too, was good last week, winning a succession of free kicks and hitting the post in the first half, so we should see the young Portuguese too. Other than that, it’ll be business as usual, which should lead to some interesting battles across the pitch. Milenković vs Gómez and Spinazzola will be fascinating, as will Chiesa against Spinazzola and Masiello.
The mister will probably try to pass the ball around the back to take the sting out of the home crowd and try to tire out an opponent that recently traveled to Germany. Further forward, expect to see the usual midfield press and attempts to spring the wingers through the defense with clever passes, along with a steady succession of Cristiano Biraghi crosses and heartfelt prayers for Federico Chiesa to do something magical.
How to watch
TV: There’s a chance, actually. RAI in the US, BT Sport 1 in the UK, and Fox Sports throughout Latin America have this one. Here are your complete international channel listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
There’s no way that Fiorentina will stop Lurch from scoring, right? So let’s call it 1-2 to the Viola, with the Slovenian curling one home after Papu sets him up. For the good guys, I think that Gil Dias will get on the board after coming so close last week; his quick-twitch dribbling will provide a way through during a bare-knuckle midfield scrap, and Chiesa should be able to tee up Giovanni Simeone for a chance or two.