Fresh off one of the most controversial wins in recent memory, Fiorentina don’t get a chance to catch their breath as they host high-flying Inter Milan, who are dealing with some crises of their own. These two have met 172 times since 1931, with the Viola holding a pretty poor record of W49 D54 L69 (nice) with a -37 goal difference. Over their past 10 league clashes, however, Fiorentina have proven to be a bit of a bugbear for their more famous opponents, chalking up 5 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses. Inter won the reverse fixture 2-1 back in September due to a really terrible PK and drew in Florence last year 1-1.
The referee for this one is 33-year-old Rosario Abisso of Palermo. In 12 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 51 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 2 penalties; that’s a bit more restrained than he’s been in years past. Fiorentina have won all 4 matches that he’s handled, including the 0-2 win over Torino in the Coppa Italia last month and the 6-1 win over Chievo Verona to open the season.
The match will be played on Sunday, 24 February 2019, at 7:30 PM GMT/2:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a clear, nippy day, which should be perfect for the spectators as the sun will take off some of the chill. Keep an eye on the wind, though, which could gust up to 21 km/hr (13 mph).
Don’t look now, but the Viola have crept into 8th place in Serie A, just 3 points behind Lazio and the final Europa League spot. The team hasn’t lost since the day after Christmas, a stretch of 6 straight matches in the league, plus a couple of big wins in the Coppa Italia. Much like they did in the late winter/early spring of last season, this squad has suddenly pulled together and gone on a run. However, Fiorentina’s habit of drawing—11 draws in 24 matches is joint-most in Serie A—remains a concern.
Manager Stefano Pioli will have to be at his best in this one, though, as rumors say that he’ll rest ST Luis Muriel, with CB Germán Pezzella (knee) and LW Kevin Mirallas (calf) also unavailable. The mister will likely set out his usual 4-3-3 with Giovanni Simeone up top. We’ve heard whispers that Marko Pjaca will get some minutes in this one, but whether he’ll get the start or come on as a sub is up for debate; he looked decent off the bench in the away fixture earlier this year.
Pioli will have to work quite a balancing act here, inviting the visitors forward before hitting them quickly on the break down the flanks. Cristiano Biraghi will try to get forward and provide another forward option, so the Viola left flank should be a spot to watch as each team tries to get the fullback up the pitch. Other than that, we expect the typical Pioli approach: furious man-marking, an attempt to pin opposing defenders into the corners and force wayward clearances which the attackers can pounce on, and generally turn it into something that’s both a grind and a track meet. Another point to note is that the Inter attackers and midfielders aren’t very good in the air, so attacking them at set pieces could be a useful path to goals.
It’s been a wild six weeks for the Nerazzurri. After 4 straight winless matches, including a loss at the San Siro to lowly Bologna, they’ve righted the ship with 4 straight wins, including an imperious dismissal of Rapid Wien to progress to the Round of 16 in the Europa League. However, this being pazza Inter, the turmoil continues due to the ongoing contract dispute with striker Mauro Icardi, who’s been stripped of the armband and exiled to the stands. Even so, Inter sit 3rd in the league with 46 points. However, they may rotate the squad heavily to avoid tired legs as they compete on three fronts.
Manager Luciano Spalletti will set out a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, likely with the in-form Lautaro Martínez up top. As usual, his teams will try to dominate possession, working overloads out wide to create crossing situations. The wingers sometimes come inside to become goal threats, allowing the fullbacks to overlap, but they also offer a threat in behind with the pace of Martínez. With the crossing ability on the flanks, the danger over the top, and the long-range shooting of Radja Nainggolan, Keita Baldé Diao, and Ivan Perišić, they can score pretty much any way they want to.
Spalletti will probably try to press high up the pitch and test the composure of this Pezzella-less backline, which hasn’t really convinced. If Fiorentina breaks the initial press, Inter will probably retreat to two deep banks of four. Given their penchant for keeping the ball and getting the fullbacks forward, finding Federico Chiesa in space on the flanks will probably be the focal point here.
How to watch
TV: There’s a good chance that you’ll find this one on whoever carries Serie A for you, as it’s the league’s premier matchup on Sunday. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
You can never really tell which Inter is going to show up on a given day, and their concern with the Europa League could lead to them overlooking Fiorentina. However, they’ve got a top mister to keep them motivated and no shortage of strength in depth, so we should be in for a tense match that pits contrasting styles. Fiorentina’s high-tempo pressure could cause the the Nerazzurri some issues, but the Nerazzurri just have so many weapons going forward. A madcap 2-2 draw feels about right, with Chiesa, Marco Benassi, Perišić, and Baldé Diao each on the scoresheet.