Fresh off a comprehensive 1-3 win over AC Milan at the San Siro, Fiorentina host the ever-tricky Udinese at the Franchi for a chance to win three on the trot for the first time since March to April of 2017. In their 97 official meetings since their introduction in Serie B in 1930, the Viola have posted a record of W48 D27 L22. Over their past 10 meetings, the Tuscans are W7 D2 L1, including a 1-0 triumph in this fixture last year behind a bit of Chiesa magic.
The referee for this one is 33-year-old Alessandro Prontera of Bologna, who will be making his first Serie A appearance (slakas, add the name to your files). If you want to extrapolate from his 8 Serie B matches—clearly, he’s been fast-tracked to the top tier—he’s handed out 33 yellow cards, 6 red cards, and 2 penalties, the latter two numbers being rather astounding. Whether his trigger finger will be that itchy in his debut fixture with the big boys remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if he’s at the forefront of the action.
The match will be played on Sunday, 6 October 2019, at 10:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for an overcast autumn day with a slight chance of rain; all in all, it should be a perfect morning for a game.
After sinking to the bottom of the table for a moment, Fiorentina are back up and running with 7 points in their past 3 matches, all against big teams (or in Milan’s case, big in their own minds), and it seems like the squad is finally rounding into form. While 10th in the table doesn’t seem like much, it’s a significant improvement over last year’s finish; with 32 matches to go, though, it’s a bit early to proclaim that the Viola are back, but recent results indicate a team on the rise.
Manager Vincenzo Montella will likely use the 3-5-2 that’s taken the league by storm over the past months, featuring his usual outfield XI; it’s tough to complain too much, since the side is undefeated since moving to that setup. Of course, the Zebrette are a very different sort of challenge, as they’ll sit deep, try to minimize opportunities on the break, and capitalize on the counter or through set pieces; whether this fluid Fiorentina attack will function against a somewhat more cynical defense is the real question here.
We know more or less what to expect from the good guys here, what with the fluid movement up top and strikerless formation generally confounding opposing defenses. However, all of Atalanta, Sampdoria, and AC Milan generally play a high line and focus on attacking; the low block and institutional knowledge of shithousery that have kept Udinese in the top flight for a quarter century are an entirely different animal, and you have to wonder if Montella will turn to a striker like Kevin-Prince Boateng or Dušan Vlahović earlier than usual.
It feels like Udine’s finest were born in 12th place with 7 points through 6 matches and a -2 goal difference. This team has the art of Serie A survival down pat and knows exactly how to steal just enough points to avoid the trapdoor year after year, no matter who’s prowling the technical area or listed on the roster. Aside from a win over Bologna last week and a season-opening win over Milan, though, the Friuliani have struggled, including a loss to Brescia and a scoreless draw at Hellas Verona.
Manager Igor Tudor has stuck with the 3-5-2 formation that most Udinese bosses seem to favor. He’ll be buoyed by the return of Rodrigo de Paul from suspension, giving the Argentine a chance to showcase his goods against the team most often linked to a move for him this summer. Indeed, expect Tudor to rely on de Paul to create a moment of magic up top and focus on frustrating the hosts for the entirety of the 90.
In Ilija Nestorovski and Stefano Okaka, de Paul has a pair of big, powerful running mates up top who are there to provide an aerial target, hold up play, and win fouls, although the wonderfully-named Kevin Lasagna is perhaps more likely to start. The wingbacks will get up and down the line and aren’t afraid to attack the back post, while the midfielders—particularly Seko Fofana, who’s criminally underrated—will buzz around the midfield and try to disrupt play, focusing more on winning the ball than charging into the box. Expect set plays to feature prominently in the attacking setup as well.
How to watch
TV: ESPN2, Kayo Sports, DAZN, Premier Sports, and BeIn are all carrying this one around the world. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The combination of the de Paul narrative carrying into the season and Fiorentina’s inability to keep a clean sheet makes the odds of the visitors getting a goal pretty good. The real interest, though, comes on the other end: will a very deep Udinese defense be enough to keep Chiesa, Franck Ribery, and company from scoring? I really don’t think so, so I’m calling this a 2-1 win for the Viola, with Chiesa and Dalbert both on the scoresheet and de Paul pulling back a late consolation for the visitors.