The last Serie A match between these two finished with a 1-1 draw behind a brilliant defensive scheme from Pioli. Over their last 10 meetings, Fiorentina are W3 D2 L5 against the Roman outfit. These sides have met 147 times since the inception of Serie A in 1929, with the Viola holding a record of W49 D42 L56.
The referee for this one is Antonio Damato. In 14 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 60 yellow cards (but no red ones) and 6 penalties. He also reffed the Coppa Italia quarterfinal between these two, which ended in 1-0 loss to the Viola. In the 28 Fiorentina matches he’s handled, the good guys are W14 D2 L12, with 51 yellow cards, 5 red cards, and 10 penalties.
Although the scoreless draw with SPAL at the Franchi on Sunday was a disappointing result, the Viola are still unbeaten in 8 straight matches, with 4 wins and a draw in their past 5. They sit 7th with 51 points, 2 behind AC Milan and automatic qualification for the Europa League rather than a playoff spot.
Stefano Pioli will probably continue with his usual XI, as the bench simply doesn’t offer many options; against SPAL, fully have the substitutes were Primavera players who haven’t ever played a minute of professional football. With captain Milan Badelj (knee) still absent, he could opt for either Bryan Dabo or Sebastian Cristoforo in the holding role, and the return of Cyril Théréau could see the Frenchman feature as a substitute after a string of uneven performances from Gil Dias and Valentin Eysseric.
Given how successful his game plan against the Laziali was last time out in the league, expect Pioli to follow a similar template: keeping a line that’s not too high and not too deep, pressuring like mad in the middle, and standing off the opposing defenders. Lazio needs 3 points as they look to secure their first Champions League campaign since 2008, so he’ll be confident that the Biancocelesti will push forward, leaving space for Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone to attack.
Despite their lofty position in the table—4th place, trailing 3rd-place AS Roma just on head-to-head results—Lazio hasn’t exactly been in sparkling form of late. In Serie A, they’ve managed just 9 points from their past 5 matches, including draws against lowly Cagliari and Bologna, as well as a scoreless Derby della Capitale this past Sunday. They also lost an absolutely shocking match against RB Salzburg in the Europa League quarterfinals, coughing up a 4-2 lead in losing 1-4 in Austria.
Manager Simone Inzaghi will likely stick with most of the lineup that earned a point against Roma. That means a 3-5-2 that often looks like more of a 3-4-2-1 as Sergej Milinković-Savić pushes ahead of his midfield partners and Felipe Anderson or Luis Alberto drop a bit deeper than striker Ciro Immobile, who’s the clear dangerman in the side; his 27 goals (along with 10 assists) have him in the catbird seat for capocannoniere honors at season’s end, but Luis Alberto and Milinković-Savić each have 9, which means this isn’t remotely a one-man team.
Inzaghi has turned his outfit into the darlings of Italy with a scintillating attack that’s scored 75 goals this year, just 2 behind league leaders Juventus. The defense, however, has been less impressive, with the 40 goals conceded good for just 10th in Serie A. Not surprisingly, they’ve been very positive, looking to move the ball vertically as quickly as possible. Immobile loves to get in behind a defense, so the backline will have to be alert to his pace and intentions, while an array of midfielders have the ability to fire home from distance or motor into the box and latch onto a clever ball from deep. Expect some bouts of high pressure from the Aquile to test Fiorentina’s composure, as well as some desperate chases the other way.
How to watch
TV: Since RAI has, in its infinite wisdom, decided that Crotone-Juve is a more compelling matchup, you may need to make alternative plans. Check here for full television listings, though, if you’re not sure.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Lazio will want this to be an open, end-to-end affair, which will suit the pace they boast throughout the park. Fiorentina, then, will need to control matters. Since they probably can’t do that and keep Immobile quiet for 90 minutes, I’m predicting a 2-1 win for the hosts, with Chiesa opening the scoring with a solo goal, Immobile nipping in behind to equalize, and Simeone bundling over a late winner.