Fresh off getting pasted 3-1 by Atalanta last Sunday, Fiorentina have had a week to regroup and get their act together. Unfortunately, they’ll have to do it against (an admittedly underwhelming) Lazio, who still entertain credible Champions League aspirations. Last time these two sides met, the Aquile took an unconvincing 1-0 win. Over their last 10, the Viola have managed a miserable W2 D1 L7 record in league meetings. In their 150 matches since Fiorentina first scraped into Serie A in 1931, they’ve posted a W50 D 42 L58 mark against the club from the capital.
The referee for this one is 43-year-old Daniele Orsato of Vicenza, who’s probably the most highly-regarded Italian referee, at least by UEFA (slakas may have some different thoughts). In 14 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 76 yellow cards, but nary a red or a penalty. That’s way out of line with his career, which has featured a sending off roughly every 4 matches and a spot kick every 5. In the 31 Viola matches he’s directed, the club has a record of W9 D8 L14. We last saw him back in March in the 1-1 draw at Udinese, when his refusal to stop the persistent fouling from the Zebrette in midfield was maddening.
The match will be played on Sunday, 10 March 2019, at 8:30 PM GMT/3:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for clouds and some light rain, as well as possibly some heavy wind, but the temperature won’t be all that cold.
After their 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions was halted emphatically by la Dea last week, we can take stock of this team, which has climbed all the way to, uh, 10th in the table. It’s absolutely incredible that a team averaging 2.7 goals per game over that stretch was unable to rise any higher than they were when the streak began, but here we are. The Viola have 36 points, which sets them 5 behind 7th place and the final Europa League spot with a dozen matches left. It’s looking grim.
Manager Stefano Pioli will have the full complement of players to draw from at least, as CB Germán Pezzella and RW Kevin Mirallas are good to go. Expect the mister to return to his usual 4-3-3 formation after his disastrous flirtation with 3-4-3 last week. We fully expect to see Pioli’s first choice XI with Gerson and Marco Benassi returning to the fold. We also expect to see the usual midfield pressing and man-marking with lots of passes over the top for Federico Chiesa and Luis Muriel to chase.
Given Lazio’s desire to dominate the middle at the expense of the wings, Jordan Veretout’s ability to switch play will be key here. If the return of Pezzella can stabilize the defense, they should be capable of keeping things relatively quiet (which, for Fiorentina these days, means conceding twice), especially if Alban Lafont retains his sparkling form. The real question is Gerson: if Pioli wants a more dynamic midfield, the Brazilian will slide in to replace Edimilson Fernandes, who could prove crucial in slowing down the likes of Sergej Milinković-Savić. If the Viola mister wants to play more cautiously, expect to see Gerson on the wing and Giovanni Simeone on the bench.
It’s been a deeply disappointing year for this Lazio side that nearly finished last season in the Champions League spots and impressed with their free-flowing, league-leading attack. This year, however, they’ve descended to earth with a bump, mostly because they’ve scored just the 9th-most goals in Serie A this year. They now sit in 6th place (although they have a game in hand and could draw level on points with eternal rivals AS Roma with a win after drubbing them 3-0 last week) and look likely to qualify for the Europa League again, although that didn’t exactly work out well this season.
Manager Simone Inzaghi will have to do without CB Wallace (hamstring), LB Jordan Lukaku (knee), and CM Valon Berisha (calf), while GK Thomas Strakosha (shoulder) is a game-time decision. While that does bite into Inzaghi’s plans, he’s got enough depth to cover, although former Viola captain Milan Badelj is still unlikely to find any room in the usual 3-5-2 that his new mister employs.
The book is rather out on Inzaghi now: he likes to overload the center or the left wing and get his strikers and midfield runners in behind while Lucas Leiva and the back three provide a stable platform. The dangerman, of course, is Ciro Immobile, who’s scored 12 goals in 24 matches this year. Milinković-Savić, although he’s fallen off substantially after an enormously impressive campaign last time out, remains influential and dangerous going forward.
How to watch
TV: Check RAI and BeIn, but this is probably going to be a streamer. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This seems like a good match for Fiorentina to get back on track; they’ve historically done well against Immobile (although he did knick his first-ever goal against them last time out), and shutting down the striker generally means that Lazio grind to a halt. At the other end, Chiesa and Muriel are simply too quick for a sometimes-ponderous Biancocelesto rear guard to keep in hand for 90 minutes. Therefore, I’m calling for a 2-1 win to the hosts with goals from Chiesa, Muriel, and Immobile in an end-to-end, slightly sloppy affair that could very well see a lot of cards.