Fiorentina will try to hit the ground running after the second international break of the season as they travel to face Brescia. In their 43 competitive meetings since they first faced off in 1931’s Serie A (a 2-1 Viola win), the Tuscans are W22 D13 L8. They haven’t played each other since 2011’s 2-2 draw in at the Rigamonti, so I’m not really interested in their record over the past 10 Serie A meetings.
The referee for this one is 43 year old Gianpaolo Calvarese of Teramo. In 3 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 18 yellow cards, a red card, and 2 penalties, so don't be shocked if he gets very involved here. In 13 matches under his direction, Fiorentina W5 D4 L4; most recently, he took charge of the second leg of last year’s Coppa Italia loss to Atalanta, in which he definitely made some weird decisions, particularly in midfield.
The match will be played on Monday, 21 October 2019, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti in Brescia. The forecast calls for rain, rain, and rain, which probably favors the hosts a bit more than the visitors, but a slip at the back could prove the decisive moment. Too, a combination of Calvarese and sopping conditions could make for quite the interesting stew.
Back in the top flight for the first time since 2010-2011, the Rondinelle sit 16th in the table with 6 points, even with 3 other teams (albeit with a game in hand). With 7 goals scored and 9 conceded, they’re not exactly lighting up the scoreboard, but remain pretty solid. After their match against Sassuolo was postponed after Neroverdi chairman Giorgio Squinzi’s death, they haven’t played since 29 September, so there’s a real chance of rust, especially since they’ve posted a W1 D0 L4 record over their past 5 matches; that said, they’ve put together strong efforts against Juventus and Napoli (they were denied a draw by VAR in the former and by the bar in the latter), so they’re not exactly pushovers.
Manager Eugenio Corini favors a 4-3-1-2 shape, which makes sense given the squad at his disposal. He’ll be absent striker Ernesto Torregrossa (thigh), but everyone knows the main man up top is Mario Balotelli, recently returned to Italy. He got his first goal of the season against the Partenopei last time out, so he’s ready to go. His strike partner is Alfredo Donnarumma, a bit of a late bloomer who’s already struck 4 times this year and looks fantastic. With 19-year-old sensation Sandro Tonali pulling the strings from deep in midfield, the rest of the roster is mostly gritty veterans (as well as ex-Viola players Romulo and Alessandro Matri), although centerback pairing Jhon Chancellor and Andrea Cistana are one of the more underrated duos in the league.
This is not a possession-based side, so expect a deep block. When Brescia get the ball, the fullbacks, particularly Stefano Sabelli on the right, like to get forward to help provide width, although the outside midfielders also break into the wide space well. Balotelli is his usual menacing self, capable of winning headers or turning and firing from distance, while Donnarumma tends to drift around a bit more. They’ll look to play very vertically, trying to break into space behind, with Tonali as the triggerman. In short, expect a style typical of a recently-promoted team with a couple of players who wouldn’t be out of place in a Champions League side.
After a rocky start that stretched the team’s league winless streak to an unfathomable 18 matches, the Viola have finally started to figure things out and are now undefeated in their last 5 outings, including wins in 3 straight. That’s enough to rocket them up to 8th in the table, which is the highest the club has been in nearly a year (remember when last year didn’t seem like a disaster?) and even with Lazio on 11 points for the last Europa League spot.
Manager Vincenzo Montella has turned things around in a big way and deserves a lot of praise, but will be sweating the fitness of forward Federico Chiesa (hip), who picked up a knock on international duty but has been spotted training with the team anyways, so he may be good to go for at least part of the match. Either way, expect the usual 3-5-2, although choosing the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Pedro, or Dušan Vlahović up top would alter the dynamic considerably; Rachid Ghezzal or Riccardo Sottil, on the other hand, would both allow for a similar setup, so the mister could have some big decisions on his hands.
The way to attack Brescia this season seems to be getting in behind their fullbacks, especially since Chancellor doesn’t have the pace to sweep up behind as well as Cistana. Through balls from the wide positions have given this defense a lot of trouble, so Franck Ribery will probably be the key man here, as that’s rather his calling card. Pol Lirola and especially Dalbert will also have key roles in attacking those wide areas, while the matchup in front of the Lombards’ defense, featuring Tonali and Gaetano Castrovilli, should be very fun to watch. If Erick Pulgar can bully Tonali, he’ll pretty much singlehandedly shut down Brescia’s creativity, so that will be another key battle.
How to watch
TV: Looks like this is one you’ll be streaming, but check the full international television here to be sure.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This is the perfect spot for Fiorentina to cough up some points: coming off an international break, running out a possibly-limited Chiesa, and facing a recently-promoted side desperate for points at home. That said, the feeling around this group is different right now, so we’ll say another gritty 0-1 win to the visitors behind a late strike from Castrovilli.