The furious pace of the Serie A schedule means Fiorentina has no time to stew over a Marco Guida cock-up masterclass that cost the team a point on Sunday, as they head north and west to take on Sassuolo. In meetings 12 meetings since their first in 2013, the Viola hold a W5 D4 L3 advantage. This fixture last year had everything: two red cards, a goal dell’ex, VAR breaks, sensational long-range strikes, and a stoppage-time equalizer from Kevin Mirallas of all people.
The referee for this one is 37 year old Maurizio Mariani of Aprilia. In 5 league matches this year, he’s handed out 23 yellow cards, 5 red cards (!), and 2 penalties, so don’t be surprised to see the ref front and center for the second time in a week. He’s only ever handled 4 Fiorentina matches, resulting in 3 wins and a loss. The latter was the most recent, though, was the 0-1 defeat against AC Milan late last year.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 30 October 2019, at 8:00 PM GMT/4:00 PM at the Stadio Mapei in Reggio nell’Emilia. The forecast calls for the Platonic ideal of a rainy fall day, so expect a cool, damp evening under the lights.
After last season’s breakout campaign, it’s been a bit more of a slog for the Neroverdi this time around, as they sit 14th with just 9 points; that’s only 2 above Brescia in the final relegation spot. With 6 points from their last 5, it’s been heavy sledding, although the squad will be in better spirits following a 0-1 win over Hellas Verona on Friday (which also means they’ve had 2 extra days of rest and preparation).
Manager Roberto de Zerbi has an injury crisis on his hands with all of GK Gianluca Pegolo (finger), CB Gian Marco Ferrari (hamstring), CB Vlad Chiricheș (hamstring), LB Rogério (knee), LB Alessandro Tripaldelli (hamstring), CM Francesco Magnanelli (suspension), CM Mehdi Bourabia (unknown), and CM Luca Mazzitelli (thigh) out or doubtful. De Zerbi has switched between a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, and a 4-3-1-2 this year, but we’re banking on the former being the shape he ends up with.
Priority one is certainly slowing down Domenico Berardi, who’s been fantastic this year: 6 goals and 2 assists mean he finally may be living up to the potential he teased nearly a decade ago. Alongside canny striker Francesco Caputo (3 goals), he provides the goalscoring threat, while the likes of Jeremie Boga and Grégoire Defrel provide pace in behind. Also keep an eye out for Hamed Junior Traorè, who’s not quite an ex-Viola player and will surely have a point to make should he see the pitch.
After having a nice little unbeaten run snapped with a deeply unjust loss to Lazio on Sunday, Fiorentina are still in the top half of the table, sitting in 9th place with 12 points; that’s 3 off the pace for the final Europa League spot, now occupied by the Aquile. It’s a stark reminder that, for all the improvement we’ve seen this year as compared to last, the team is still a long way from competing for silverware, and that getting to that point may take longer than any of us would like to admit.
Manager Vincenzo Montella has a conundrum on his hands. With defenders Martín Cáceres (hamstring), Luca Ranieri (suspension), and Pol Lirola (ankle) doubtful or out, forgotten man Federico Ceccherini is the only option if a back three is still the plan, so a switch back to the 4-3-3 we saw earlier this year could be in the cards. Further forward, Franck Ribery (suspension) is also unavailable, which means that a 3-man attack, including a start for any of Riccardo Sottil, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Dušan Vlahović, Pedro, or Rachid Ghazzal. With only a couple of training sessions to get everyone up to speed, this could be rather disjointed.
On the plus side, Sassuolo’s weaknesses line up well with Fiorentina’s strengths. The Neroverdi generally pack the center defensively, giving up a lot of space on the wings; if that doesn’t sound like manna from heaven for Federico Chiesa and Sottil, I don’t know what does. Their penchant to keep the ball means there should be space for the Viola to break into, and they’ve already given away 3 penalties, suggesting that they have trouble defending skillful dribblers in the area.
How to watch
TV: Check the full international television listings here, but this is probably one you’ll need to stream.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
These are both squads designed to attack more than defend, especially with the absences they’re both carrying. That could lead to a rather sloppy match, particularly with the rain coming down, so this could be one of those weird, janky, surprisingly high-scoring affairs. We’ll call it a 2-3 win for the visitors behind goals from Chiesa, Sottil (he’s due), and Pulgar, with Berardi and Caputo on the scoresheet for the hosts.