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Fiorentina vs Napoli: Preview

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The Partenopei are always a tough proposition, but there’s no telling which version of the Viola will show up to face them.

Udinese v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Prodigal son returning?
Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Following a poor showing in a 1-1 draw at Udinese last week, Fiorentina return to the Franchi, where they most recently walloped AS Roma 7-1 in the Coppa Italia. They take on another of last year’s Champions League sides this time out in Napoli, against whom they’ve compiled a record of W56 D47 L53 with a +25 goal difference in 156 meetings since 1931. More recently, though, the scales have tilted the way of the Partenopei: in their last 10 league meetings, the good guys are just W2 D3 L5. When they met at the San Potato earlier this year, Napoli came away with a 1-0 win that was deserved but competitive. In this fixture last year, though, Fiorentina ran out to a 3-0 win behind a Giovanni Simeone hat trick.

The referee for this one is

The match will be played Saturday, 9 February 2019, at 5:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a cold, gray day with some rain just before the match that should mostly clear up by kickoff, but it may be pretty slick conditions out there again.

Fiorentina

With just 6 points from their last 5 league matches, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that this Fiorentina team is a real candidate for the Europa League. Heck, sitting in 9th place with 31 points (albeit just 4 behind Lazio in 7th), it feels like the top half of the table may not even be entirely secure; there are 3 teams within 2 points of the Viola right now, so that final European berth feels pretty unobtainable.

Manager Stefano Pioli, therefore, must feel a bit of heat from the fans and ownership right now and would love a high-profile Neapolitan scalp to ease the pressure. However, he’ll have to work with the suspended duo of CB Nikola Milenković and CM Marco Benassi, although he should have CB Vitor Hugo back from injury. That likely means that we’ll see Gerson and Edimilson Fernandes in midfield with Vitor Hugo, while Cholito is likely to start up top in hopes that Napoli bring out his best.

The real question here is how ambitious the Partenopei will be away from the San Potato. If they push high up the pitch and leave space in behind for Federico Chiesa and Luis Muriel to attack, the hosts will prosper. If, however, they sit deep, then they have the quality in midfield and up top to pick the hosts apart. And especially without Milenković, the defense will have to be flawless, as this attack can put the ball in the back of the net really quickly, from either open play or from set pieces; avoiding fouls in dangerous areas will be crucial as well.

Napoli

10 points in the past 5 Serie A matches has Puglia’s sitting 11 points above Inter Milan, but they’re also 9 behind leaders Juventus. Getting bounced out of the Coppa Italia last Tuesday by AC Milan also stings, although they shook it off enough to thrash Sampdoria 3-0 on Saturday.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti has done a decent job of moving his team on from Maurizio Sarri’s style. They now play a fluid 4-4-2, with the left-sided midfielder—usually Piotr Zieliński or Fabián Ruiz—moving inside and leaving lots of space for Mário Rui or Faouzi Ghoulam to attack. Personnel-wise, the big question is Marek Hamšík: the club leader in appearances was sold to Chinese outfit Dalian Yifang this week, but now it sounds as if the move may be delayed due to financial issues. Elsewhere, Carletto is famed for squad rotation, so it can be tough to predict who exactly will show up in his XI.

Stylistically, Napoli are a patient, possession-based side with searing pace all over the field to pounce on the slightest mistakes. The dangermen are strikers Arkadiusz Milik, Lorenzo Insigne, and Dries Mertens, although the latter may end up on the wing this week. They’ll probably try to control proceedings with their passing, looking for space between the lines for Insigne to dart into and create problems. They’ll also look for space in behind, so Vitor Hugo and Germán Pezzella will need to be quick on the turn. Similarly, the Viola midfield will theoretically have a numerical advantage, but the fluidity of the front four for Napoli means that they should compete well in the center of the park.

Possible lineups

Laurini or Ceccherini, Fernandes or Dabo; Rui or Ghoulam, Hysaj or Malcuit, Ruiz or Zielinski, Mertens or Milik
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How to watch

TV: DAZN, Serie A Pass, and the hinterlands of BeIn seem to be the most common destinations for this one, but it could wind up being a streamer for a lot of folks. Check the full international television listings here.

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

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

Napoli’s away form hasn’t been great and Fiorentina are excellent at the Franchi, but this is a tough fixture no matter what. Fiorentina will, as usual, look to man mark every opponent and try to generate quick attacks off of turnovers in midfield, using the speed of Chiesa and Muriel down the wings. Napoli will press high as well, especially against Alban Lafont, so this could wind up being a match of attrition as much as anything. If the Viola can keep things frenetic going forward and tight at the back, they could come away with a positive result. A 2-2 sounds about right: a free kick from Insigne and a Mertens strike equalling goals from Simeone (he always looks sharp against the Partenopei) and Muriel.

Forza Viola!