The Coppa Italia means that Fiorentina will have a quick turnaround after that bizarre Inter Milan clash and will host a Nerazzurro team for the second time in four days. This time, though, it’ll be Atalanta. Since they first met in Serie B in 1929, the Viola hold a W57 D41 L28 edge against la Dea and are undefeated in their last 14 matchups, with 10 of those being wins. Most recently, Fiorentina squeaked by them at the Franchi earlier this year by a score of 2-0, behind a Jordan Veretout penalty (after a Federico Chiesa dive) and a Cristiano Biraghi thunderbastard of a free kick.
The referee for this one is 41-year-old Daniele Doveri of Rome. In 11 matches this year, he’s handed out 44 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 4 penalties; as you can see, he’s not afraid to get involved in the action. Fiorentina holds a record W11 D1 L6 in the 18 matches he’s officiated. We saw him most recently in last year’s 1-2 win at Bologna, which featured not one but two Olympico goals.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 27 February 2019, at 6:00 PM GMT/1:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast looks perfect for a spring day in the stands: some clouds, temperatures around 17 C/63 F, no chance of rain, and gentle breezes.
You might consider the Viola one of Serie A’s form teams, as they’ve gone 10 straight matches without a loss in all competitions. However, their propensity for draws means that just half of those results have resulted in 3 points, and the Viola remain mired in the midtable. 9th place with 36 points—albeit just 2 adrift of Torino and the final Europa League spot—doesn’t feel like a whole of of progress despite the lack of defeats. Given the state of the league campaign, it feels like the Coppa Italia may well be the best way for this outfit to sneak into Europe.
Part of the problem right now is personnel-based, as manager Stefano Pioli is without captain CB Germán Pezzella (knee) and RW Kevin Mirallas (calf), although CB Nikola Milenković (flu) should be recovered for this one and Luis Muriel should be good to go from the first minute. It’ll be interesting to see how Pioli sets out his team for this one, given the success of his plan to drop CB Federico Ceccherini very deep in possession and let him control the first half against Inter with his passing. How that shakes out with Milenković back in the fold remains to be seen, but could provide a crucial advantage against this in-form Atalanta side.
Otherwise, we’ll see the usual 4-3-3 and the usual furious pressing in the midfield. We could see the midfield shuffle around a bit to help Jordan Veretout, as Atalanta delights in finding space to the side of the holding midfielder, which means this could be a good time to try out Bryan Dabo from the start (although we’ve said that every week). Chiesa and Muriel will probably stay very wide, looking to stretch the man-marking back 3 into leaving a lot of space for midfield runners to exploit. The identity of the third attacker remains a mystery—Giovanni Simeone showed well against Inter, but we’ve also heard that Marko Pjaca is regaining Pioli’s trust. How that third attacker threatens the opposing defense and grants the wingers space to cook is perhaps the most important battle in the match.
It’s been a weird month for la Dea, who dismissed Juventus from the Coppa Italia by a score of 3-0 but have taken just 7 points from their past 5 Serie A matches, including a 2-0 loss at Torino on Saturday. Despite that setback, they still sit in the 7th and final Europa League spot, even with 6th-place Torino on points, and even though they’ll feel fairly confident about pushing their way into continental competition for the third consecutive year, they haven’t won the Coppa since 1963 and the fans and players should be hungry for their first trophy since winning Serie B in 2011.
Gian Piero Gasperini welcomes back Papu Gómez from a hip injury that kept him out against the Granate, meaning the manager will have his entire squad to choose from. We expect him to send out the usual 3-4-2-1ish shape (very fluid up front) with more or less the strongest XI he can muster. That means we’ll probably be seeing ex-Viola attacker Josip Iličić and former Primavera defender Gianluca Mancini, which is always frustrating, especially since they’ve both proven to be significant goal threats this year, although not nearly as much as Duván Zapata, who’s been on an unholy tear of late and is the primary dangerman, scoring 15 goals in his past 12 matches.
Atalanta will utilize their typical approach defensively, pressing high up the pitch and man-marking at the back. That approach could cause them problems with Chiesa and Muriel out wide looking to use their pace, so expect to see the wingers spend a lot of time chasing balls over the top. In attack, la Dea keep the ball well with both central midfielders sitting deep, working it out wide to the speedy wingbacks—who aren’t afraid to get into the box—and looking for Gómez or Lurch in pockets of space as the defense shifts across. Those two excel at shooting from distance or finding a clever through ball for Zapata, so the midfield and defense will have to stay focused for the full 90.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
With a rabid home crowd and an attack that’s blown the doors off defenses of late, this feels like a Fiorentina win to me as Chiesa and Muriel wreak havoc at the back for the visitors, each netting a goal. However, Atalanta offers no shortage of attacking danger either, and with two ex-Viola players likely to start, a goal del ex feels inevitable. Therefore, mark it down as a 2-1 win for the good guys, with Lurch reducing the arrears for the visitors.