Fiorentina get a midweek match for the first time this year to make up for the postponement of their season opener at Sampdoria, which was moved back following the collapse of Morandi bridge in Genoa. These two have met 129 times over the years, with the Viola holding a distinct edge of W46 D47 L36, along with a +22 in goal difference. Over their last 10 meetings in the league, the Gigliati have managed a record of W3 D4 L3, including a 3-1 loss in this fixture last season behind a Fabio Quagliarella hat trick.
The referee for this one is Fabio Maresca of Naples, a veteran of 39 Serie A matches. He’s handed out an average of 5 yellow cards per match in his career, as well as a red card or a penalty every other match, so we could see some fireworks. In the three Viola matches he’s overseen, the good guys have won, lost, and drawn. His most recent Viola match was last year’s 1-1 at Atalanta, in which he sent off Nikola Milenković rather softly.
The Blucerchiati are in a rich vein of form of late, having climbed to 4th place in Serie A with a game in hand; they’re even with Fiorentina on 6 points, but have an astounding +7 goal difference to put them a nose ahead. That’s indicative of their deadly attack: after opening the season with a loss at Udinese, they romped to a 3-0 upset of Napoli, and then put Frosinone to the sword with a 5 goal outburst at the Stadio Benito Stirpe.
Manager Marco Giampaolo will be quite pleased with his charges, although he’ll have to work without centerback Vasco Regini (knee), midfielder Dennis Praet (knee), and trequartista Riccardo Saponara (hamstring). Expect to see the usual 4-3-1-2 from Giampaolo with the deadly duo of Quagliarella and Grégoire Defrel up top supported by Gianluca Caprari in the hole. Quags and Defrel have combined for 6 goals and 2 assists already—Defrel is currently the capocannoniere—so that’s definitely the area of concern.
Giampaolo has done a marvelous job with Samp, creating a fluid team that packs the middle with quality and feeds the attackers in the channels. Defrel and Caprari will drift wide and deep to pull the opposing defense out of shape and create space, but also love to get in behind. The midfield has license to drive forward as well, so the Viola will need to be disciplined in tracking runners from deep. The defense should be beatable, though, especially if faced with Federico Chiesa dribbling at pace, so that should be Fiorentina’s priority.
Saturday’s 0-1 loss at Napoli has a bit of the shine off the Serie A darlings, but this is still a team that sits 5th in the league with a match in hand, and a win could fire them all the way into 2nd. The lads will need some mental fortitude to prove that they can get it done on the road and that the Napoli match was just a blip.
Stefano Pioli will do without goalkeeper Alban Lafont (hamstring) again, but otherwise has his full XI back. Expect the midfield three ofJordan Veretout, Marco Benassi, and Gerson to start after they were all subbed out against Napoli to preserve their legs, although Edimilson Fernandes or Bryan Dabo could get a look as the holding midfielder as well to allow Veretout to return to his more natural mezzala role. Valentin Eysseric, who played all 90 minutes on Saturday, will probably drop to the bench, so Marko Pjaca could make his long-awaited first start. Giovanni Simeone may be too exhausted to play the whole match, so there’s also a chance that we see one of Dušan Vlahović or Martin Graiciar make his Serie A debut.
Pioli will probably want to defend deep against the Blucerchiati, as their pace means they’re a serious threat to get in behind the defense. However, given their recent goal-scoring form, this isn’t exactly a team you want to invite too much pressure against, so the solution may be to press in the midfield and cut off quality service to the strikers while defending deep. Frankly, that seems like it favors the hosts much more than Fiorentina, so the players will have to be sharp and focused to get a result. As Samp overload the middle with players, the visitors should attack down the wings, where they can get Chiesa and Pjaca (or whoever starts opposite Fede) in space to attack defenders directly.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Sampdoria will probably see more of the ball, what with all the excellent passers in the midfield, while Fiorentina will try to break quickly down the wings, which means we could see a very open match with a lot of goals; betting houses certainly seem to think that we’re going to see a fair number of chances. Since I agree with that assessment, I’ll say that the Viola right the ship with a 3-2 win, with Chiesa, Simeone, and Veretout the scorers for the good guys and Quagliarella and Caprari netting for the bad guys.