It’s time to shake off the insanity of Sunday’s win over Chievo Verona get ready for a trip to the capital to face AS Roma in a rare midweek clash for the Coppa Italia. These two have met 181 times since 1931, with the Viola holding W55 D65 L61 record in those matches. Over their past 10 meetings, it’s a dead rubber, with each side winning 4 times and drawing the other two; Fiorentina did win 0-2 the last time they met in the Coppa behind that rarest of occurrences: a Mario Gómez brace. They did hold the Giallorossi to a 1-1 draw in Florence earlier this year and came away with a genuinely astonishing 0-2 victory at the Stadio Olympic last year, though, so there is hope.
The referee for this one is Paolo Mazzoleni of Bergamo, who’s theoretically one of Italy’s better referees (don’t tell slakas) as he’s on the UEFA roster for internationals and continental competitions. In 10 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 45 yellow cards to go with a whopping 8 red cards and 5 penalties, so don’t be shocked if the official takes center stage for the second Viola match in a row. In the 22 matches he’s handled for Fiorentina, the good guys are W8 D4 L10. Most recently, he worked the 2-1 defeat to Inter Milan earlier this year in which he handed the Nerazzurri one of the softest penalties you’ll ever see after Vitor Hugo “handled” the ball in his area and bungled a number of other decisions. So, uh, woohoo?
The match will be played on Wednesday, 30 January 2019, at 5:15 PM GMT/12:15 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for another cold, rainy day, so don’t be surprised to see some slips and trips on the wet pitch and a whole bunch more long balls.
Fresh off their second consecutive ridiculous match that involved a murderously dumb sending off and no shortage of late drama, Fiorentina seem to be righting the ship a bit with 8 points from their last 5 matches. They’re still in 9th with 30 points, although that’s just 2 behind Atalanta and the final Europa spot, but you get the feeling that this team can come unraveled at any moment, no matter the situation. It’s not really a restful time to be a Viola fan is what I’m saying.
Manager Stefano Pioli will have his entire XI at his disposal, but may look to rotate his players a bit after their gut-busting performance against Chievo. Hopefully Nikola Milenković will be fully recovered from his bout with the flu and ready to go again. We’d also expect to see starts for the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Gerson (who’ll surely want to impress against his parent club). New signing Pietro Terracciano might draw the start in goal, but Alban Lafont’s development may take precedence.
Regardless of the personnel, though, Pioli will maintain his familiar approach: man marking in defense and in midfield with an eye to generate quick turnovers and play into the channels. Against a Roma defense that plays a high line and has looked a bit shaky of late, it seems like a decent proposal until you realize that the Giallorossi keep possession well and could tire out their opponents with some controlled passing. Too, the quickness on the wings and Pellegrini and Zaniolo’s form of late could spell doom for the good guys too.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Roma were in danger of relegation if you listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from fans of the Giallorossi. The truth is, though, that they sit 5th place in Serie A, just a point behind AC Milan and Champions League football, and have 10 points from their last 5 matches. However, a truly mind-boggling meltdown at Atalanta last week (they held a 0-3 lead after 40 minutes) resulted in a draw and further calls for changes at the top. With a match against the Rossoneri looming on Sunday, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them punt on the cup and focus on the league.
Embattled manager Eusebio di Francesco isn’t entirely out of tricks, though he’ll have to scheme around the absences of GK Antonio Mirante (calf), CB Juan Jesus (knee), LW Diego Perotti (calf), and RW Cengiz Ünder (hamstring). Even with such an extensive injury list, EDF should stick with the 4-2-3-1 that he’s used for much of the year. Bench players like Justin Kluivert and Patrik Shick will probably get some burn, as will Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi, who are both suspended for the next league match.
Tactically, di Francesco will count on Lorenzo Pellegrini and Fiorentina academy product Nicolò Zaniolo to find space between the lines before running at goal and either shooting or playing the killer pass. As ever, the plan will be to dominate possession, working the ball around quickly until Roma can find an overload to exploit. Defensively, they’ve been rather porous all year, albeit with signs of tightening up of late; a high line and high pressure mean that the Viola will likely attack over the top again, although this Giallorosso backline has a lot more talent and pace than Chievo’s, so such an approach may not be as successful.
How to watch
TV: Doesn’t look likely, but check your local television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
I almost can’t believe I’m saying it, but I feel like Fiorentina have the advantage here. They have almost nothing to lose at this point and are scoring like mad. Roma, on the other hand, seem nervy amidst the clamor for EdF’s head. Too, the Lupi may well be looking forward to their match against Milan. That, combined with what should be a rotated side, could place the visitors at a serious disadvantage, as could the weather conditions. Therefore, I’m calling for Fiorentina to eke out a 1-0 win behind a goal from Gerson against his parent club. And there is now no doubt that this team is entirely doomed.