Fiorentina get a chance to snap a 4-match losing streak this week when they host league leaders Inter Milan. In the 173 meetings between these two since 1931’s Serie A season kicked off, the Viola hold a record of W49 D55 L69. Over their past 10 meetings, however, Fiorentina have proven to be a real bugbear for the Nerazzurri, posting a record of W5 D2 L3 in that span. The Gigliati earned a draw in the 100th minute in this fixture last year, the culmination of a truly bonkers 3-3 draw that we’re still trying to figure out.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Maurizio Mariani of Aprilia. In 7 matches this year, he’s handed out 39 yellow cards, 10 red cards (9 of them of the direct variety, which is wild), and 4 penalties; only 2 of those 7 matches haven’t featured a sending off. In the 5 Fiorentina matches he’s directed, the Viola are W4 L1. We most recently saw him in the 1-2 win over Sassuolo which marked the team’s first-ever win with Rocco Commisso in attendance.
The match will be played on Sunday, 15 December 2019, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a surprisingly warm day with plenty of cloud cover but minimal wind and no rain. This might be the last match with such lovely conditions for a couple of months, so enjoy it.
Catastrophic. Listless. Miserable. Disengaged. Bad. Really, any adjective describing a negative state applies to Fiorentina right now, with just a single point from their past 5 league matches and 4 losses on the trot, including defeats to recently-promoted Hellas Verona and Lecce as well as an absolute pantsing at the hands of high-flying Cagliari. That run of results has the Viola sitting 13th in the table with 16 points from 15 matches; that’s their fewest after that many since 2006, when they had 11 (although that was due to a 15-point deduction following a match-fixing scandal).
Manager Vincenzo Montella is pretty much a lame duck manager at this point, and he’s not being helped by the absence of LW Franck Ribery (ankle) and the uncertain statuses of CB Germán Pezzella (face) and CF Kevin-Prince Boateng (leg). From what we’ve heard, Vinnie’s going to revert to the 3-5-2 with Federico Chiesa partnering either Dušan Vlahović or Pedro up top. The real question is whether Marco Benassi or Milan Badelj will draw the start in midfield; we’re banking on the forward, but it’s really a tossup.
With Ribery still out, this feels like the sort of match in which Fiorentina’s best chance for a result is to defend deep and pray that Chiesa does something unspeakably brilliant a couple of times. Expect the Viola wingbacks to be pinned deep by their opposite numbers—although Dalbert may have something extra in the tank against his parent club—so the attacking verve will come from Chiesa (who’s struggled against Milan Škriniar and company throughout his career) and Gaetano Castrovilli, who’ll need to consistently drive past Marcelo Brozović and deform the Inter backline to make good things happen for the good guys.
If you’re a fan of il Biscione, you’re probably dealing with some conflicting feelings. In Serie A, the Nerazzurri are top of the table with 38 points, leading the loathsome Juventus by 2; if they can keep this up, it’ll bring the first scudetto to the black-and-blue side of Milan since Jose Mourinho was in town 9 years ago. While that’s a nice, toasty-warm feeling, the Champions League defeat to a Barcelona second team on Tuesday will surely have fans tearing their hair out by the roots.
While manager Antonio Conte is unlikely to follow suit, he has to be concerned about an injury crisis: CM Nicolò Barella (knee), CM Stefano Sensi (hip), CM Roberto Gagliardini (foot), and CF Alexis Sánchez (foot) are unavailable, meaning that the ex-Viola duo of Borja Valero and Matías Vecino could well join Cristiano Biraghi in the first XI. Conte, as ever, utilizes a 3-5-2 lineup predicated on pressure and quick transitions.
The dangerman is, at this point, Lautaro Martínez, who’s been growing by leaps and bounds this year. Combined with Romelu Lukaku up top, he provides Inter with a dynamic presence who can make something from nothing. As the Viola haven’t shown any ability to create scoring opportunities from the midfield even against bottom-tier competition, the Nerazzurri are likely to dominate everything in the center of the pitch. That means that bypassing the entire zone is probably the best way to attack this team.
How to watch
TV: RAI and ESPN 2 (woah, look at Fiorentina moving up in the world) seem like the best options. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams. If you’re in the US, ESPN+ is showing it; sign up using this link if you don’t have an account yet and Viola Nation will get a little bit of cash (Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.).
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Whoo boy. Everything here points to a ticked off Inter positively unloading on a hapless Fiorentina. As we’ve seen this year, though, Serie A tends to resist easy narratives. Combined with the recent successes the Viola have managed against the current capolista, this could get mighty weird. That’s why we’re calling it a 2-1 win for the good guys, with a Chiesa strike and a Pulgar penalty (following a sending off, because Mariani is a crazy dude) proving enough to overcome a bulldozing effort from Martínez. And now let’s not talk about it again.