An unconvincing 2-0 win over Cittadella in the Coppa Italia might, we hope, be the springboard from which Fiorentina regains some form in Serie A when they travel to face a solid Torino side. In their 154 meetings since 1931’s inaugural Serie A campaign, the Viola hold a W51 D53 L50 advantage; over their past 10, that record is W3 D5 L2, including a punishing, nigh unwatchable 1-1 draw in this fixture last year that featured none other than Marco Benassi scoring in the first minute.
The referee for this one is 42-year-old (and slakas favorite) Pietro Giacomelli of Trieste. In 6 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 27 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 6 penalties. In 16 matches under his direction, Fiorentina are W6 D5 L5; last we saw him, he sent off Matteo Musacchio for trying to amputate Franck Ribery’s leg in the 1-3 win over AC Milan. He’s got a reputation for letting things go, which plays right into the hosts’ hands.
The match will be played on Sunday, 8 December 2019, at 2:00 PM PST/9:00 AM EST at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin. The forecast calls for a very chilly day, scarcely above freezing even in the middle of the afternoon, so bundle up.
Toro have been perhaps the most solidly mid-table side in Serie A over the past few years, and they’ve continued that trend this year: they’re in 10th with 17 points, although they’ve only taken 6 points from their past 5 matches, conceding an 8 goals in that span, and, aside from a 4-goal outburst against last-place Brescia, have scored just once in that stretch.
Manager Walter Mazzarri has some notable absences to scheme around: CB Lyanco (knee), RM Simone Edera (suspension), CF Andrea Belotti (hip), and CF Iago Falque (hamstring) are all out or unlikely. This being Mazzarri, he’ll stick with his usual 3-5-2 shape, featuring pace and trickiness out wide and a bunch of bulldozers in the middle who look to impose themselves on opponents and dictate play through physicality rather than clever passing.
Simone Zaza is the likely dangerman up front, as he provides an aerial presence and reference point for the rest of the side, particularly with a more mobile forward drifting around behind him. As you’d expect from a Mazzarri side, they look to keep it fairly basic, looking to win the ball with a block of middling depth and then hit quickly down the wings on the break. Defensively, a lot depends on how much Montella trusts his own wingbacks: if he thinks they need help, he could go to a back four so they have wingers to help provide cover.
It’s nearing crisis time for the Viola, who’ve taken just 4 points from their past 5 matches, have lost 3 straight in the league, and generally look awful. They’ve slumped to 13th in the table with 16 points and need a win to prevent the rumbles of discontent among the fans from growing into a full-blown mutiny; the Europa League—Atalanta on 25 points are in the final spot—seems a distant dream at this point.
Manager Vincenzo Montella is missing CB Germán Pezzella (face), LW Franck Ribery (ankle), and maybe RW Federico Chiesa (hip). Given the absences and the relative success of his 4-3-3 shape against Cittadella in the midweek, he could well continue with four at the back here, although the lack of available wingers is a concern. A badly misfiring Dušan Vlahović is likely headed to the bench in favor of Kevin-Prince Boateng, with Riccardo Sottil and Rachid Ghezzal likely in line to start as well.
Torino have a mobile back three which is good at sweeping up behind their midfield, who like to aggressively press opposing engine rooms. If Gaetano Castrovilli can twist his way past his marker regularly, he’ll help deform the Granata defensive shape more than anything else. Flooding runners forward could also work, although getting the balance right to avoid overcommitting and letting Torino break the other way will be a tricky balancing act. How the midfielders do at breaking pressure is probably the key aspect of this one.
How to watch
TV: RAI may have this, depending on where you are. Check the full international television listings here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Torino is as good as anyone at making you earn your point(s), with a physical style that teeters on brutal and an opportunistic attack. If Fiorentina can wriggle free in the middle, though, the wheels are likely to come off for il Toro. With the number of fouls likely to show up in this one, we wouldn’t be surprised if somebody got sent off (last year it was Mazzarri, which was fun). We’re calling it a tight 0-1 win for the Viola, with a late Pulgar penalty the deciding factor in an otherwise unwatchable slog.