Fresh off what may be the craziest game in Serie A this year, Fiorentina get what is, on paper, a cakewalk against a Chievo Verona side that they thrashed 6-1 in their first Serie A match of the year. These sides have met 32 times since their initial clash in 2001, with the Viola holding a W23 D3 L6 edge and a +29 goal difference. Over their past 10 league meetings, the good guys are W8 D1 L1. As a caveat, though, that loss came the last year in Verona (a vomitous 1-2 reversal), so this isn’t as much of a gimme as you might hope; with Fiorentina, after all, there really aren’t any gimmes.
The referee for this one is Daniele Chiffi of Padova. In 7 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 40 yellow cards and 3 red cards. He’s only handled one Fiorentina match in his career: the wild 3-3 draw at Sassuolo that featured both teams winding up with 10 men; Nikola Milenković got his marching orders for dissent. That is to say that Chiffi likes to be very involved in the action, which could play into Fiorentina’s hands. If he’s willing to card what will probably be persistent fouling on Chievo’s part, the Viola could wind up with a numerical advantage. If he’s hesitant, however, we could be treated to as choppy a game as you can imagine.
The match will be played on Sunday, 27 January 2019, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi in Verona. The forecast calls for overcast skies and moderate wind with a chance of rain as the day progresses, so the climactic conditions will definitely be something to keep an eye on.
It’s been an utterly miserable season for the Gialloblu, who’ve slumped to last place in the league with just 8 points. They waited until the last match of 2018 to get their first win—a scrappy 1-0 over 19th place Frosinone—and are pretty much completely assured of dropping back to Serie B this year after 11 years in the top flight. It just goes to show you exactly how good a manager Rolando Maran is; once he left for Cagliari, the Donkeys’ season was pretty much over.
Current manager Domenico di Carlo, a November appointment, has stuck with the 4-3-1-2 shape that made Chievo so tough to play against. It hasn’t worked nearly as well, though; ranked second from the bottom in both goals scored and allowed, this is not the same eleven masters of shithousery we got used to seeing under Maran. Di Carlo will set his charges very deep and narrow, hoping to frustrate the Viola attack, before eventually hoping that his side can smash and grab a goal, probably through a free kick. With all due respect, though, it seems unlikely. Chievo have just been bad all the way through all year.
The one bright spot has been the emergence of 19-year-old striker Mariusz Stępiński, who leads the clubhouse with 4 goals and an assist. Ageless wonders Sergio Pellissier (3 goals, 1 assist) and Stefano Sorrentino (2 months from his 40th birthday and still one of the better goalies in Serie A) are around, as is occasionally tricky but frequently clunky attacker Emmanuele Giaccherini and one-time Viola captain Nenad Tomović (who’s playing in the middle these days), but the overall outlook here is pretty bleak for fans of the Mussi Volanti.
After that wild 3-3 draw against Sampdoria last week, the Viola remain in 10th place with 27 points, just 4 outside the final Europa League spot. Over their last 5 Serie A matches, they’ve accumulated 7 points, although there’s also a Coppa Italia win over Torino two weeks ago as well. Still, it’s hard to say that this is a group that seems dangerous or focused over the past month or so, and that can’t bode well for Andrea Della Valle’s stated goal of 7th place.
Manager Stefano Pioli does have a new weapon, at least, in Luis Muriel. The recently-arrived attacker scored a pair of in-f***-credible goals against Samp and seems like he could completely revamp the attack with his pace and flair, leading to knock-on improvements for Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone. The mister will have to do without Cristiano Biraghi and Edimilson Fernandes, but David Hancko and one of Marco Benassi, Bryan Dabo, or Christian Nørgaard should allow him to keep his lopsided 4-3-3 rolling.
The Dane, in fact, may be the best be to start with, as the Viola are probably going to control this one for the entire match, necessitating calm possession in the middle. Jordan Veretout will bear the heaviest burden in the middle to create something, but this one will be all about whether Chiesa or Muriel can beat their markers and make something happen. Those are both matchups that the visitors will feel good about, so expect to see the wide men handed as much responsibility as they could possibly desire. The midfield will also probably press very high, hoping to catch their hosts out and generate some short fields to attack, since Chievo will spend most of the match defending with all 11 players.
How to watch
TV: Feel free to check the international listings here, but I’d be shocked if you found this one.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This feels like the best possible place for the Viola to get just their second road win of the season. Simply put, Chiesa and Muriel each have too much in the locker and should keep the Chievo defense stretched thin, allowing Giovanni Simeone a lot of space to work the channels. Of course, there is probably no team in the world that’s better at dribbling down its leg in these kinds of matchups, so I’m still not exactly brimming with confidence. That said, it’s pretty easy to see the good guys running out to something like a 3-0 win, with goals for Cholito, Benassi, and Chiesa.