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SPAL vs Fiorentina: Preview

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The Viola desperately need a win to get back into the Europa conversation, but the Spallini present a substantial obstacle.

ACF Fiorentina v SPAL - Serie A
Don’t get tripped up.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Fresh off a draw with Napoli that simultaneously impressed and frustrated, Fiorentina travel to Ferrara for a clash with SPAL. This fixture in Florence resulted in a dominant 3-0 win for our heroes. The result pushed their all-time record against the Estensi to W16 D14 L8 in 38 meetings. Over their past 10, the Viola sport a W5 D4 L1 record against their northern counterparts, including an assured 3-0 win in Florence earlier this year and a scoreless draw in this fixture last season that put an end to Fiorentina’s 6-match winning streak.

The referee for this one is 34-year-old Pierluigi Pairetto of Nichelino. In 11 Serie A matches this year, he’s issued 41 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and 3 penalties. The Viola have won and drawn in two games under his direction, most recently the 1-1 draw with Atalanta last year which featured a couple of dodgy penalty decisions.

The match will be played on Sunday, 17 February 2019, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Paolo Mazza in Ferrara. The forecast calls for a brisk day, perhaps a bit cloudy, but without significant wind or rain, which should lead to a pretty enjoyable setting for some calcio.

SPAL

Despite a red-hot start to the season that saw them climb as high as second in the league (albeit early in the season), SPAL have plummeted to a relegation position. Despite an apparently-safe ranking of 14th in the table, they’re just 4 points ahead of Empoli for the final relegation spot and have taken 5 points from their past 5 matches and have won ony one of their past fifteen games.

Manager Leonardo Semplici—who bossed the Fiorentina Primavera for 3 years—will have to replace CM Simone Missiroli (suspension) in the middle, but otherwise will have the full squad at his disposal. He’ll certainly send out his beloved 3-5-2, probably featuring ex-Viola players Emiliano Viviano (wearing the 2 shirt, which is so goddamn wrong for a goalkeeper), Felipe dal Belo, and Jasmin Kurtić.

SPAL’s bread and butter this year have been their brilliant high pressure, which forces opponents to go long and thus cede possession against a tough back three. They’ve particularly impressed in pressing goalkeepers, so Alban Lafont will have to be mistake-free with his distribution. Going forward, the Spalletti will keep the ball on the ground and look to switch it from flank to flank quickly, hoping to release Andrea Lazzari down the left and hope his excellent technical ability and crossing can bring the strikers into the match.

Fiorentina

Despite some superficially impressive results, things in Florence aren’t great. The team sits 10th with 32 points, 6 off Lazio in 7th, and sports has won only 1 of its past 6 matches in the league; not surprisingly for a team that still holds European ambitions, that’s led to plenty of criticism for the boys in purple.

Manager Stefano Pioli will welcome back Nikola Milenković, Vitor Hugo, Vincent Laurini, and Marco Benassi, who should all return following suspension or injury. Absent Germán Pezzella (knee) and Kevin Mirallas (calf), Federico Chiesa should wear the armband and seek to pin SPAL deep, stretching play and cutting the ball back to the central players as he did in the reverse fixture. Giovanni Simeone should return to the starting XI with Muriel pushing wide; if he can rediscover his form, he’ll provide Fiorentina fans with a glimpse of the terror this tridente could inflict over the next few years.

With Luis Muriel on the opposite wing, the Viola will probably play with a lot of width and look to stretch the SPAL defense much wider than they’d like, either by pulling the outside centerbacks out to the touchlines or pinning the wingbacks deep. Either way, midfielders running through the channels should prove critical; that’s why we’re expecting big things from Benassi and Gerson (should he start), who seem best positioned to take advantage here. In defense, SPAL will look to play quickly through the channels, so the Pezzella-less defense will need to keep its communication strong and constant.

Possible lineups

Valoti or Valdifiori; Gerson or Fernandes
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How to watch

TV: BeIn, DAZN, and ESPN2 seem like the best options, but you should probably check the full international television listings here before you assume it’ll be on at the pub.

Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

This feels like it could open up a bit, considering that both teams want to run and attack space out wide or in behind, so don’t be shocked to see a lot of cards issued. That said, Fiorentina seem like they have the advantage in quality and should be able to stress this defense with their width, but the injury absence of Pezzella is a genuine concern. Even so, the difference in talent should eventually create inroads via Chiesa and Muriel. We’ll call it a 0-2 Viola win, behind goals from the aforementioned Colombian and Simeone.

Forza Viola!