Following a frustrating 1-1 draw at Atalanta, Fiorentina returns home to host Chievo Verona. In a match that features a host of ex-Viola players returning to Florence, as well as a meeting of the youngest squad in Serie A with the 2nd-oldest.
In their last 10 meetings, Fiorentina are W8 D1 L1 (although that loss came earlier this season in the form of a disappointing 2-1 reversal), scoring 19 and conceding just 6 in those clashes.
The referee for this one is Rosario Abisso of Palermo. In 12 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 41 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and 7 penalties. You may recall him from the 3-2 win over Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia, which featured 3 spot kicks; it’s the only Fiorentina match he’s ever reffed. The Flying Donkeys, conversely, have played 5 league matched under his watch, managing a record W1 D2 L2.
The match will be played on Sunday, 25 February 2018, at 2 PM GMT/9 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
The Viola haven’t been much better than their opponents of late, having gathered just 4 points from their past 5 matches. They’re still sitting 11th in the table and still have a positive goal difference, but those are the only nice things you can say about them right now.
Stefano Pioli has some choices to make for this one. Nikola Milenković (red card) and Milan Badelj (yellow card accumulation) are both suspended, and Vincent Laurini (foot) is still iffy, so we could well see Bruno Gaspar return to the right flank, although forgotten man Vitor Hugo could slot in for Milenković as well. Bryan Dabo is probably the man to replace Badelj, but Pioli could go more attacking and hand someone like Riccardo Saponara or Valentin Eysseric a rare start. In attack, Gil Dias is coming off a very poor showing, but hopefully Pioli has the sense to stick with him instead of going back to Cyril Théréau.
The mister has the initiative here, as he could set up in a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3. We’re leaning towards the latter, as he’ll want numbers in the middle—remember that Chievo flooded the center of the pitch last time—and numbers out wide to overload the opposing fullbacks. To me, that points to Gaspar at rightback and Dias at winger. Since the Donkeys will be bunkered way back for most of this one, Fiorentina should dominate possession and will look to get the ball out wide for cut backs.
It’s another typical season for the Gialloblu, who sit 15th in Serie A and have an 8-point buffer between themselves and the drop zone. They’ve gotten just 3 points in their past 5 matches, though, so they may be feeling some pressure. However, this is a veteran team (average age of the starters last week was 31 years) with all the craftiness you’d expect from an experienced group that knows how to grind out results.
Manager Rolando Maran will have to make do without January loanee Emanuele Giaccherini (calf), but otherwise has a full squad to choose from. He’ll set up in his usual 4-3-1-2 and instruct his players to stay deep and narrow in defense, funneling traffic out to the wings and forcing balls into the box for the centerbacks to deal with. The attackers will drop very deep to try and prevent the Viola defense playing balls into the midfield, then look to break forward into the channels. They’ll also threaten via set pieces.
We’ve joked about it before, but this could finally be the week that Maran sets out the all ex-Fiorentina backline of Nenad Tomović, Alessandro Gamberini, Dario Dainelli, and Massimo Gobbi. He hasn’t gotten all 4 of them on the pitch in the same game yet this year, but we really want it to happen. Further forward, keep an eye out for Roberto Inglese, the rugged striker bought this summer by Napoli and loaned back to Verona, who leads the team with 8 goals and 2 assists. The creative fulcrum remains the enigmatic Valter Birsa, who’s got 2 goals and 5 assists.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
I actually like the Viola in this one for a routine 2-0 win. I think an early header from Giovanni Simeone off a Cristiano Biraghi cross will settle the hosts’ nerves, and a second half strike from Jordan Veretout will provide the insurance as the visitors get stuck trying to push forward too much while leaving a bit of room at the back for their opponents.