Hoo boy. It’s time for one of the fixtures that has historically given the Viola all kinds of trouble, and it comes at the exact wrong time. The Giallorossi, on the other hand, are reeling after getting whomped by a world-class team in the Champions League. Both have a lot on the line here.
Over their past 10 matches, Fiorentina are W1 D1 L8 against AS Roma, including the 2-4 defeat in the reverse fixture earlier this year. Over those 10 matches, they’ve scored just 9 goals and conceded 22. You have to go all the way back to 2012—the 1-2 shocker that featured Delio Rossi as manager and goals from Stevan Jovetić and Andrea Lazzari—to find the last Viola win at the Olimpico.
The referee for this one is Ravenna’s Michael Fabbri. In 15 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 55 yellow cards, 4 red cards, and 4 penalties. Under his watch, the Viola are W3 D1, with the draw (a scoreless affair at the San Potato) coming most recently.
The match will be played Saturday, 7 April 2018, at 5 PM GMT/10 AM EST, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Over their past 5 Serie A matches, the Lupi have accumulated a commendable 10 points. However, the sour taste in the Giallorossi mouths isn’t due to league performance, but to a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona at the Camp Nou this past Wednesday. That away goal, though, provides a tiny bit of hope for them, and it’s possible that the squad will be so focused on the return leg in Rome on Tuesday that they’ll overlook this one. However, they also know, with 60 points on the year, that Inter Milan (59) and Lazio (57) could jump past them for the Champions League places next year with any slips.
Eusebio di Francesco has a bit of an injury headache, too. Rightback Rick Karsdorp (knee) is certainly out, but midfielder Radja Nainggolan (hamstring) and winger Cengiz Ünder (hamstring) are both semi-healed and could potentially play in this one. However, di Francesco may opt to hold them out for the Barca match, which means we could see the likes of Maxime Gonalons and Gregoire Defrel instead as the mister tries to preserve his stars for the Champions League.
As ever, di Francesco will set up in a 4-3-3. The wingers like to stay wide to stretch the opposing back line before cutting inside, while the midfield tends to sit in place a bit more. The fullbacks have license to get forward as well. Di Francesco will want to settle this one early so his players can coast for the rest of the match, so expect some early pressure. If the Viola can withstand that, though, space could open up on the break in the second half.
It’s been good times in purple town of late with regards to results, as Fiorentina have won 5 in a row. In fairness, all 5 of those wins have come against teams that sit in the bottom half of the table, so this match may prove an entirely different animal, especially given the Viola’s historical struggles in this stadium; just a single win in 20-something years is not particularly encouraging. On the other hand, this is a squad that’s full of confidence and can see Europa League qualification at the end of the tunnel.
Stefano Pioli has some pretty significant absences to deal with, though. Milan Badelj (knee), Federico Chiesa (suspension), and Cyril Théréau (thigh) are all out, which is a pretty serious concern; the former pair has been the brightest players in the team all year. Expect a return to the 4-3-3 with Sebastian Cristoforo slotting into the holding role (although Bryan Dabo may well have earned the role with a strong performance last week). However, Pioli has shown a willingness to run an unbalanced formation, so we could see Riccardo Saponara as a nominal left winger continually drifting inside, with Gil Dias keeping his width on the right. Also, Primavera star Riccardo Sottil has gotten his first call to the senior team and could even make a late cameo if the conditions are right.
Pioli’s gameplan here is going to have to be perfect. He can’t afford too deep a block, which will allow the hosts to pin his boys deep and pepper the goal with shots, but he also can’t push too high up the pitch, as Roma excel on the break. Finding a happy medium will be critical. Expect all-out defense from the start, with an increased emphasis on quick counters as the game wears on and the Roman midfield starts to leave gaps.
How to watch
TV: BeIn has opted to screen Benevento vs Juventus instead of this one, which makes so much sense that I want to vomit. Anyways, check the full international listings here, but make plans to watch online.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Ugh. Double ugh. This fixture is always miserable. That said, it’s possible that the Romans will look past this fixture and let the Viola sneak away with a point. I’ll say a 1-1 draw with the action coming late in the match: a Saponara drive that hands Fiorentina a brief lead will be cancelled out by a desperate scramble and a Patrik Schick header just before time.