Despite some turmoil throughout the club, Fiorentina have to get back to work with a return to Florence for a tie with recently-promoted Lecce. In 34 meetings since their first in the 1929 edition of Serie B, the Viola are W13 D11 L10. They haven’t met since the 2012, when the Giallorossi were sent down. However, on their way down they beat the Gigliati 0-1 at the Franchi thanks to a shameless dive, leading to fan protests at Delio Rossi and the Della Valles.
The referee for this one is 36-year-old Marco Piccinini of Forlì. In 6 Serie A games this year, he’s issued 36 yellow cards and 3 penalties, which is about on par for his career, which is pretty short at the top flight: this will be just his 12th Serie A match. For the second week in a row, we get a guy who’s never handled a Viola fixture before (although the Primavera won both of their ties under his direction), but in a bit of a quirk, this will be the 11th time he’s overseen Lecce.
The match will be played on Saturday, 30 November 2019, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for some light rain, but not enough to really even require a jacket, as there’ll be some blue sky poking through too. Basically, it’s going to be a perfect fall day.
After finally ending a record-setting winless streak earlier this season, the Viola are descending into crisis again. With just 1 win in their past 6 games, they’ve slumped down to 10th in the table with 16 points; that’s their fewest after 13 weeks in the league since, uh, they lost to Lecce last time under Delio Rossi’s direction. While this year is unlikely to end with a slapfight on the touchlines, it’s just a little bit too much déjà vu for comfort.
Manager Vincenzo Montella has been doing everything he can to make his job difficult of late, and now stuck in a feud with Federico Chiesa and without captain Germán Pezzella (face), he’ll have to figure out how to make it all work. Recently extended youngster Luca Ranieri should fill in for the captain at the back and Fede should return to the starting lineup along with midfielders Gaetano Castrovilli and Erick Pulgar; perhaps that injection of pure quality will be enough to see the Viola improve without any help from the mister.
The return of Chiesa, Castrovilli, and Pulgar should help the attack out a lot. Given Lecce’s propensity to foul, the former two and Ribery are likely to generate a steady stream of set piece opportunities. Since the Giallorossi tend to pack the center at the expense of the wings, usually conceding spaces out wide, this could be a good opportunity for Dalbert and Pol Lirola or Lorenzo Venuti to shine here as well.
In their first year back in Serie A since their relegation in 2012, the Lupi sit in 17th place with 11 points, just 1 above Genoa and the trapdoor. They’ve gotten just 4 points from their past 5 matches, but those include draws against top-four sides Juventus and Cagliari, so the Apulians aren’t exactly helpless and are settling in as the sort of tough-to-crack side that battles the drop while giving top sides headaches; given that this team has more Fiorentina ties than any in the league, that headache is already approaching migraine proportions.
Manager Fabio Liverani (yeah, the ex-Viola regista) has a hatful of absences: CB Luka Dumancic (unknown), rightback Riccardo Fiamozzi (suspension), CM Žan Majer (unknown), AM Radoslav Tsonev (suspension), AM Marco Mancosu (thigh), CF Filippo Falco (knee), CF Khouma Babacar (knee, and also we love you), and CF Gianluca Lapadula (suspension) are all unavailable. Liverani will likely use his usual 4-3-1-2; keep an eye out for midfield orchestrator Jacopo Petriccione, who’s a former Viola Primavera star and ever-present in the middle; for short-term former loanee Panagiotis Tachtsidis; and for former Viola player Simone Lo Faso, who could well make his season debut with the shortfall of attacking options at the moment.
Lecce like to pass out from the back but aren’t afraid to hit it long when they see a chance to create opportunities rather than simply thump the ball forward and hope. With the usual strikers out, the midfield will carry an even larger responsibility than usual. The tridente plays very fluidly, drifting around and happily drifting to the wings; they tend to create chances through by putting individuals in a position to win battles rather than by a holistic strategy.
How to watch
TV: Check RAI, but it doesn’t look likely; check the full international television listings here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Given that Lecce brings the joint-worst defensive record in Serie A and is missing three attackers who’ve scored 10 of their 16 league goals this year, a home date seems like the best chance for Montella’s men to get right. We’re therefore calling a Chiesa-inspired 2-0 win for the good guys, with a Fede strike and a Pulgar penalty providing the final margin.