Fiorentina gets a rare mid-week match to make up the cancellation earlier this year following the death of Davide Astori. It’s going to be strange and sad for the players to return to Udine, but here we are.
Over their past 10 meetings, the Viola are W5 D2 L3 against the Zebrette, scoring 19 goals and conceding 12. Their clash at the Franchi earlier this year resulted in a 2-1 victory behind a brace from Cyril Théréau, who will doubtless enjoy a lusty welcome from his former employer.
The referee for this one is Federico La Penna, who will be handling just his third Serie A match of the year. In the two prior, he’s handed out 9 yellow cards, so expect some bookings. He’s never reffed a match for Fiorentina.
The match will be played Tuesday, 3 April 2018, at 5:30 PM GMT/12:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Friuli in Udine.
After a rough start to the season, the Zebrette seemed to have righted the ship, but have instead plunged into a string of losses: 6 in a row, to be precise. However, the Friulians still sit solidly in 12th place on 33 points. They’re almost assured of an anonymous midtable finish and not taking a financial loss on the year, so it’s probably a successful season by their standards.
Manager Massimo Oddo is probably safe from the sack this year, seeing as how he was appointed in November, but he’ll be desperate to stop the rot to ensure his future employment. His job is made more difficult by a slew of injuries in the midfield: Valon Behrami (hamstring) and Seko Fofana (thigh) are both on the shelf, although Emil Hallfreðsson (knee) may be recovered in time to play a role.
As ever, Udinese play very compactly in Oddo’s 3-5-2, looking to minimize space between the lines, work the channels on the break, and attack through set pieces with a number of strapping men. The dangermen are strikers Kevin Lasagna (7 goals and 4 assists) and Rodrigo de Paul (4 and 7), while midfielders Jakub Jankto (6 and 2) and Antonin Barak (3 and 5) both get forward well to support the attack.
It’s not a bad time to be a Viola fan, as Florence’s finest have 13 points from their past 5 matches, just 2 short of the maximum. The run of form has coincided with a bunch of bottom-of-the-table fixtures, it’s true, but wins are wins, and stacking them up has pushed Fiorentina past Sampdoria (on goal difference only) for 8th place in Serie A. They’re just 3 points behind Atalanta for the final Europa League spot and seem to be trending in the right direction.
Stefano Pioli will welcome back Cristiano Biraghi and Marco Benassi from suspension, which should give him the freedom to revert to the 4-3-3 that he’s favored this year. Expect him to rotate the side a bit, as the Crotone match was just three days previous. That means we can probably expect to see some or all of Nikola Milenković, Bruno Gaspar, Bryan Dabo, Gil Dias, and Diego Falcinelli. Milan Badelj (knee) and Cyril Théréau (thigh) are both injury casualties.
This is just the sort of match that the Viola tend to struggle in. Udinese will defend deep and grind it out with an athletic, powerful midfield before springing into attack via their mobile forwards, who will win fouls and let the big men come up from the back. Fiorentina, then, will focus on switching the play quickly from wing to wing and look for big contributions from the fullbacks in attack, while shifting the ball through the midfield with speed and purpose.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This is going to be a very emotional match for Fiorentina, so it’s easy to imagine the lads digging deep and unearthing new reserves of tenacity to honor their departed captain. To that end, I think that a 1-2 scoreline to the visitors seems about right. I’ll go with a header from Germán Pezzella off a corner, a blast from Jankto to equalize, and a Benassi golazzo to win it.