Fresh off the Derby dell’Appennino, Fiorentina get to host rivals in Juventus. With an unquiet fan base facing its most-hated opponent, we could see some spectacular crowd action here; whether it’s banners and singing or another exit en masse during the match will depend on how the Gigliati perform against their guests.
These two have played 156 times, with the Gigliati managing a rather unimpressive W33 D50 L73. Over the past 10 meetings in Serie A, the Viola are W2 D1 L7 (scoring 11 and conceding 17) against the evil empire, including a 0-1 loss earlier this year and a 2-1 win last year in Florence.
The referee for this one will be Marco Guida. In 11 Serie A matches this season, he’s handed out 41 yellow cards, 5 red cards, and 2 penalties; clearly we can expect him to intervene frequently in the play. In the 13 Fiorentina matches he’s handled, the Viola are W5 D5 L3, while Juve are W8 D4 L1 under his watch.
The match will be played Friday, 9 February 2018, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
Fresh off a rather odd 1-2 win at Bologna, Fiorentina have reasons for confidence. Rather, they have a reason, and his name is Federico Chiesa. The 20-year-old winger offers the Viola their best chance at points in this one, and any goals they score against a white-hot Juve will probably require a moment of magic from him. There aren’t many other reasons for confidence, frankly. After all, this is an 11th-place side that’s managed just 5 points from its last 5 matches.
Stefano Pioli has to figure out how to maximize Chiesa’s impact while minimizing the multitudinous flaws in the rest of the squad. He’ll welcome Germán Pezzella back from suspension, although Nikola Milenković could have a role as well: his size could help counter the aerial threat of Mario Mandžukić. The midfield should be exactly as we expect it. In the attack, Pioli will have to choose either the tricky, untested youth of Gil Dias or the unimpressive but experienced Cyril Théréau. He’ll also likely be without Vincent Laurini (hamstring), who’s been bad recently but did a brilliant job in the away fixture; Bruno Gaspar, who will likely draw the start, was less than brilliant, we’ll say. Charitably.
While there’s an outside chance that Pioli could try a 3-5-2, the usual 4-3-3 is far and away the likeliest formation. Expect a fairly deep block and a cautious start against a Bianconeri side that’s been really good in recent weeks. Heavy midfield pressure while not leaving space between the lines will be key, meaning that Milan Badelj is perhaps the most important Viola player tonight. The attack will be all about playing Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone into the channels and hoping they can shoot, or at least win set pieces.
Dammit. Newcastle Junior is up to its usual tricks, having won its past 9 and not lost in Serie A in 12. Last week, they put 7 past Sassuolo. They haven’t conceded a goal in 6 league matches. Now just a point behind capolista Napoli, you can tell that they’re moving right along. The only positive about this one is that they host Tottenham Hotspure in the Champions League on Tuesday and thus may be focused on the continental competition rather than the domestic one.
Too, Max Allegri has a few selection headaches. Centerback Benedikt Höwedes (thigh), midfielder Blaise Matuidi (thigh), winger Juan Cuadrado (leg), and forward Paulo Dybala (hamstring) are all unavailable for this one, and the Spurs fixture could see other key members of the team miss out as well. However, the Juvenuts boast depth across the formation, as ever, so don’t expect to see an overmatched youth team either. Specifically, Federico Bernardeschi may well get the start in his return to Florence, which will surely be met with a rational, measured response by the tifosi.
Allegri will probably stick with his 4-3-3. Gonzalo Higuaín probably won’t go the full 90, so expect to see Mandžukić up top for a bit. It’s fair to expect rotation in the defense and midfield as well. It’s on the wings where Allegri’s run into trouble: Berna and Douglas Costa are the only healthy wingers in the squad, so Kwadwo Asamoah could be pushed into duty higher up the pitch. Regardless of the personnel, expect a typical Juventus approach: solidify at the back, get a midfielder or two into the attack, and hit hard and quickly.
How to watch
TV: Since this one’s on a Friday (?!), it’ll probably be televised where you are. Here are the international listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Blech. I don’t want to. I really don’t. But, because this is TMBGD, I’ll say it’ll end as a shocking 2-1 comeback win, with Mandžukić heading home the opener, Pezzella equalizing from a set piece, and Chiesa scoring a late winner to send the stadium into raptures, kick off an unbeaten streak that lasts the rest of the season, and rights all the wrongs in the world. Look, it’s a blind guess, okay?