It’s time to put that wild 3-3 draw against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia behind us and steel ourselves for the next league opponent, who is, uh, Atalanta. Since they first met in Serie B in 1929, the Viola hold a W57 D42 L28 edge against la Dea and are undefeated in their last 45 matchups, with 10 of those being wins. In this fixture last year, the teams split the points in a clash that the visitors felt like they should have won.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Marco Guida of Torre Annunziata, who’s highly-rated enough to handle the Europa and Nations Leagues. In 10 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 51 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 3 penalties, so you can tell he generally tries to let the players play. In 14 the Fiorentina matches he’s officiated, the Viola are W5 D5 L4. We saw him most recently in the 0-2 loss to Juventus last year.
The match will be played on Sunday, 3 March 2019, at 5:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Bergamo. The forecast calls for some cloud cover but mostly sunny skies, with temperatures around 13 C/55 F and a light breeze: in short, an absolutely marvelous evening for a match.
Sitting in 8th place in Serie A isn’t a bad spot for the Bergamo-based outfit, especially since they’re even on 38 points with Lazio and Torino and trail only on goal difference. Nobody would be surprised if la Dea took a third consecutive trip to Europe, which I think would be a record for them. They’ve only managed 7 points from their last 5 matches, though, and have lost two on the bounce in the league, so you can fully expect the team to be charged up for this one. The fans, too, could be a factor, as reports of violence during the Coppa clash between these sides on Wednesday have surfaced.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini should have his full side available for selection, as LM Robin Gosens is fully healthy. The real question is what kind of squad rotation we’ll see from the side that faced the Viola in the midweek. Andrea Masiello or Berat Djimisti could come into the defense, with Gosens and Remo Freuler good candidates to see the pitch in midfield. Up top, Musa Barrow may get a chance in the tridente.
No matter who’s out there, though, it’ll be the same tactics we saw a few days ago. The focus will be on keeping the ball, creating overloads, and then finding the forwards in the half-spaces to either shoot or play the killer pass. Gasperini is expert at finding individual mismatches and exploiting them ruthlessly, which means the Viola can’t afford any off-days from the defenders (looking at you, Vitor Hugo). Defensively, we also know what we’ll see: fairly high pressure from the attackers and man-marking farther back, which will open opportunities for the Viola to attack 1-v-1 in space.
It’s rare to ride an 11-game win streak through all competitions and not really move up the table, but that’s life in Florence for you. Despite a revitalized attack, the recent shortcomings in defense have kept the Viola mired in 9th with 36 points; only goal difference separates them from 10th-place Sampdoria. If this team is serious about qualifying for Europe via its league standing, it needs to put together a lot of wins very soon.
Manager Stefano Pioli will be boosted by news that RW Kevin Mirallas (calf) is fit enough for the bench after training with the squad for the past few days, although CB Germán Pezzella’s absence continues to loom large. We’d expect him to scrap the 3-5-2ish shape he tried against Atalanta on Wednesday in favor of the usual 4-3-3. That means that Edimilson Fernandes will return to the XI, and Vincent Laurini could get a chance as well, although Federico Ceccherini has been pretty good. There’s also a possibility that we’ll see a tridente of Federico Chiesa, Luis Muriel, and Giovanni Simeone start together, which could be exciting given the form they’re all in.
Following the utter failure of his tactical plan to pull his midfield wide in the Coppa tie—leaving Jordan Veretout to compete 1-v-4 in the center wasn’t the best idea ever—Pioli will probably emphasize that area a lot more, with Edi being critical to marking Josip Iličić out of the match. The attackers will interchange frequently, but you worry a bit that with three players all looking to get in behind and drive at defenders in the channels that there could be some redundancies up there. Nevertheless, there should be space for those three to regularly put themselves in threatening spots.
How to watch
TV: Possibly. Here are the full international listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This feels like the rare road match which Fiorentina could win. Had they not spotted Atalanta a 2-goal lead after 20 minutes, they would have won the last matchup comfortably. Weirdly enough, la Dea has won more points on the road than at home, too. With a better tactical layout from the opening whistle, I’m backing Fiorentina to a 1-2 win with goals from Muriel and Simeone overcoming a strike from (who else?) Lurch in a match that should be energetic, end-to-end stuff. While the Nerazzurri have plenty of quality, the raw pace that the visitors will bring favors them in that kind of game.