The referee for this one is Claudio Gavillucci. In 14 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 57 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 6 penalties. We last saw him looking on as Hellas Verona gave Fiorentina bofa to the tune of 1-4 in January. Overall, he’s officiated 6 Viola matches, resulting in 2 wins, 3 draws, and that loss.
The match will be played on Sunday, 18 March 2018, at 1 PM GMT/10 AM EST at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino in Turin.
The 10th-placed Granata have 27 points this year, just two behind their visitors. After a promising 9th-placed finish last season, many tipped them as contenders for the Europa League places. Instead, they’ve rather underperformed, leading to the sacking of ex-Viola boss and enemy of fun Siniša Mihajlović. It hasn’t really helped, as they’ve managed just 4 points from their last 5 matches, including 3 losses on the trot.
Manager Walter Mazzari (who spent 1983 with Fiorentina, although he didn’t make any official appearances) has opted for continuity, keeping Siniša’s 4-3-3 formation intact. With defenders Lyanco (ankle) and Cristian Molinaro (fibula) out, Nicolas N’Koulou will be partnered by one of a pair of 36-year-olds in the heart of defense: Nicolás Burdisso or Emiliano Moretti. Ex-Viola rightback Lorenzo de Silvestri is likely to start as well. The midfield is a balanced mix of grinta and steady passing, anchored by Tomás Rincón and with Daniele Baselli (who’s linked to Fiorentina every dang window) providing the forward thrust. The attack is pretty well settled: M’Baye Niang and Iago Falque provide a goal threat from the flanks and a steady stream of balls into the box for the ever-dangerous Andrea Belotti. Adem Ljajić could earn a start as well, but will probably feature from the bench.
Mazzari will probably look to press high and dictate the temp here, as he’s got pace and craft up front and a hardworking, clever group in the middle who will be tasked with switching play rapidly to provide 1-v-1s out wide against the Viola defenders, who will also have a tough assignment in stopping il Gallo. The Granata mister will probably want to hold possession and slow things down, as his back line is rather susceptible to pace, which feeds into the Viola gameplan nicely.
Still rocked by the unexpected death of Astori, this group demonstrated some serious mental toughness in earning all 3 points last week at an emotionally charged Artemio Franchi. This week, though, is where it gets difficult: without the crowd to gee them up, without the need to get the win for the captain, it’ll be easy for the lads to let their focus waver here (and nobody would blame them). With just a 2-point lead on their hosts in the table, though, it’d be good to see them earn a victory, as their form has improved over the last 5: 3 wins, a draw (featuring a Viola defender sent off fairly early), and a loss (to Juventus and under, um, unlikely circumstances.
Stefano Pioli will probably continue with the 4-3-3 he returned to against Benevento. It’s a toss-up as to whether Vitor Hugo will keep his spot in the XI—remember that he scored last week—or if Nikola Milenković will return to the lineup after serving his suspension. Vincent Laurini should get the nod over Bruno Gaspar, given the former’s superior defensive qualities, which will be necessary against Niang. The midfield should be the usual suspects of Milan Badelj, Jordan Veretout, and Marco Benassi. In attack, Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa are sharped into the lineup, but the other wide attacker could be any of Riccardo Saponara, Gil Dias, Cyril Théréau, Valentin Eysseric, or Diego Falcinelli.
Pioli will probably order his charges to sprint around like maniacs for the first five or ten minutes, hoping to bustle their way into a chaotic goal, but will likely order them to sit deep after that. How deep is a difficult judgement, though: a high line gives Niang and Falque space in behind, but sitting too deep allows Belotti a lot of space in the box. The midfield pressure will be the thing to watch here: if the Viola engine room can slow down its opposite number, the Viola stand a good chance of earning possession high up the pitch and giving Chiesa and Simeone a chance to run at a defender who’s fully 15 years older.
How to watch
TV: You can check the full international listings here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This one could be a somewhat higher-scoring affair than we’ve grown accustomed to of late, as it features a pair of unsteady defenses and a lot of talent in each tridente. Therefore, let’s call it a 3-2 to the visitors: Belotti is going to score, natch, and there’s no way that Nutella Boy doesn’t slither past a couple of defenders and bury a curler past Marco Sportiello. But this could be the game where Cholito finally gets off the schneid (he hasn’t netted once since the Inter Milan game in early January), bursting through the Granata line to score an ugly one, and should be able to pull the strings against Cristian Ansaldi; let’s mark the kid down for a goal and an assist for a Benassi tap-in.