After seeing last week’s planned league opener at Sampdoria delayed due to the Ponte Morandi, Fiorentina will begin Serie A play by hosting Chievo Verona. This will be the 31st meeting between these two clubs, with the Viola managing a W22 D3 L6 against the visitors. Over the last 10, the good guys are W8 D1 L1. Last year, the hosts won this fixture 1-0 in a scruffy match featuring a Davide Astori assist for Cristiano Biraghi’s brilliantly-taken debut goal for his new club.
The referee for this one is Rosario Abisso of Palermo. Fiorentina have won both matches that he’s refereed. The only Serie A match he’s handled for the Viola, in fact, was the previously mentioned win over Chievo. He was also in charge of last year’s wild 3-2 win over Samp in the Coppa Italia.
The extra week is probably a good thing for the Viola, as it gives them seven more days in training to get on the same page with each other. Manager Stefano Pioli has a solid group of players at his disposal, but it remains to be seen who he’ll select. The defense is pretty well set, but midfielder Jordan Veretout (suspension) is unavailable, opening up space for one of Gerson, Christian Nørgaard, or Edimilson Fernandes. Further forward, we’ve heard whispers that Marko Pjaca (leg) may be out until mid-September, while Kevin Mirallas (leg) could return for this one. In light of this disheartening news, expect to see Valentin Eysseric retain his spot on the wing.
Pioli will use his 4-3-3 as expected. Now with a week’s worth of pent-up energy and playing at the Franchi, you’d better believe that Fiorentina will come out the gates with everything they have, pressing the visitors and driving them back into their own penalty area. An early goal would force Chievo to be more positive, thus giving the Viola more space to break into. With a midfield that’ll probably be very functional and barely creative, the plan should be to work the ball wide to Federico Chiesa on the right or Eysseric and Cristiano Biraghi on the left and hope that one of them can summon something—a dazzling run into the box, a wicked shot, a pinpoint cross—that provides a breakthrough. In other words, it’ll look a lot like last year.
Fresh off giving Juventus a scare last week before ultimately losing 2-3, the Flying Donkeys will be full of belief. New manager Lorenzo d’Anna (who made 12 appearances between 1992 and 1994 as a centerback with Fiorentina) favors a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 with the wingers retreating deep. Although it’s a different setup from what we’re used to seeing under Rolando Maran, the ethos—sit deep, make yourself a nuisance, and hit on counters and set pieces—remains the same.
D’Anna may be without goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino (head), which means that ex-Viola prospect Andrea Seculin will get a chance to prove his worth, while defender Nicholas Frey (suspended) is also absent. It’s tough to say who the mister will select, but it seems likely he’ll stick pretty close to the XI that came within a quarter hour of a famous upset of the reigning champs.
As ever, the Donkeys will set the backline well within their own box with the intention of frustrating their hosts, rarely venturing out unless there’s an obvious opportunity for a counter-attack. As Fiorentina throw more and more numbers forward and tire themselves out, expect Chievo to go forward later in the match. With a wealth of experience all over the pitch (alternately, these dudes are old), d’Anna will trust his charges to follow orders and carry out his plan for a classic smash-and-grab.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Chievo are going to be full of confidence after their performance last week and Fiorentina are missing some key pieces. That said, I think that the Viola just have too much quality for the Gialloblu, particularly in Chiesa. Let’s call it a scrappy 2-0 for the hosts, with Chiesa setting up Giovanni Simeone for the first just before halftime and a late insurance goal from substitute Mirallas.