Following a pretty magnificent win against Chievo Verona to open the season, Fiorentina get to stay at home for the second week in a row. This time, they’ll host Udinese, who always feel like a trap game even though history shows it’s not necessarily true; in their 95 meetings, the Viola are W47 D26 L22, including W6 D2 L2 over their past 10 in Serie A. Last year in this fixture, the good guys won 2-1 behind a (very enthusiastically celebrated) brace by Cyril Théréau against his old side.
The referee for this one is Antonio Giua of Pisa. This will be just his 3rd-ever Serie A match, so we don’t actually know a whole lot about him other than that he’s just 30 years old and, judging from his statistics at the lower tiers, seems to be pretty reluctant to go to the pocket. However, we’re sure he’ll find a way to endear himself to slakas pretty quickly.
Given that Chievo entered this season as one of the top relegation candidates, this could be the first real test for Fiorentina thus far. It will also be an exciting opportunity to see if Stefano Pioli continues with some new tactics that he trotted out for that fixture that seemed to unlock the attacking potency of Marco Benassi, specifically.
Pioli will have to do without Jordan Veretout (suspension), while Kevin Mirallas and Marko Pjaca are likely to start from the bench following their respective leg injuries. That means Valentin Eysseric will have another opportunity on the left wing. While any of Bryan Dabo, Christian Nørgaard, or Edimilson Fernandes could fill in for Veretout, it sounds like the latter is the preferred option despite a rather lackluster showing against the Mussi Volanti.
Knowing that Udinese are likely to sit much deeper than Chievo, Pioli may prioritize a slightly less frantic approach in the midfield, hoping to let Gerson and Benassi control things in the final third instead of bashing every ball over the top and hoping that Federico Chiesa or Giovanni Simeone will latch onto it and do something cool. However, the Zebrette bring a rugged midfield and an experienced backline to this one, so it could turn into another war of attrition.
It hasn’t been the easiest start in the world for a new-look Udinese, who were bounced from the Coppa Italia by Benevento three weeks ago, but they’ve gotten their act together since, overcoming a 2-goal deficit to snatch a point at Parma and then holding off Sampdoria for a 1-0 win last week. Given the Friulian outfit’s penchant for slow starts followed by strong winters, this could be a pretty dang good edition of Italy’s finest black-and-white striped club.
New manager Julio Velázquez has stuck with a 4-3-3 this season. He’ll be without midfielders Emmanuel Badu (knee) and Rolando Mandragora (suspension due to blasphemy, which is so singularly Italian) as well as winger Svante Ingelsson (knee). That opens a spot in midfield which will probably be filled by Antonin Barak if Velázquez feels adventurous. Otherwise, it’ll be Andrija Balić or Mamadou Coulibaly, who both offer a bit more defensive solidity. The dangerman here is left winger Rodrigo de Paul, who’s already scored twice. He’ll look to cut inside onto his right foot and let fly from distance whenever possible, so Nikola Milenković will have to be sharp.
Velázquez is naturally inclined to play on the break, so don’t expect his gameplan to involve keeping possession. He’ll instead rely on a deep defensive block protected by a gritty and hardworking midfield to frustrate the hosts, and look to quick counters and set pieces for attacking inspiration. Watch for Viola ex Valon Behrami to set the tone from his holding midfield spot and probably chip in a goal, considering how former players have done against Fiorentina thus far.
How to watch
TV: Doesn’t look likely, but check here for full international listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This feels like it could be an infuriating on for the fans, as Udinese will try to frustrate their hosts rather than go on the attack. That said, I also think that this Viola attack will test the Friulian backline more than Samp or Parma. Therefore, I’ll say that a cagey first half will precede an early Cholito goal in the second, after which the visitors will almost immediately level through Kevin Lasagna. Things will remain tense until the introduction of Marko Pjaca, who will rifle home a late winner from distance.