Hey, did you remember that Fiorentina still have matches to play after their clown-show parting of ways with Stefano Pioli? Because now new boss Vincenzo Montella returns to the Viola technical area for the always-fiery Derby dell’Appennino against Bologna. In 143 meetings since 1931, the Gigliati are W56 D46 L41 in 143 matches against the Felsinei, including 9 straight without a defeat, with 7 wins through that stretch. Earlier this year, the teams played to a grim scoreless draw at the Renato dall’Ara.
The referee for this one is 41-year-old Piero Giacomelli of Trieste. In Serie A this year, he’s handed out 49 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 4 penalties; the latter two are well below his career rates, so don’t be shocked if he tries to stamp his authority on the game with some very Giacomelli moments on Sunday. In the 11 Viola matches he’s handled, the good guys are W5 D3 L3. We’ve seen him twice this year: first in the 1-1 draw against Cagliari then in the 3-1 win over Empoli in which he unjustly ruled out a Cristiano Biraghi goal for no reason after a VAR consultation
The match will be played on Sunday, 16 April 2019, at 1:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a pretty miserable day, honestly: it’s probably going to be chilly, pouring down rain, and gusting heavily. In short, we’re looking at the types of conditions that perfectly favor Montella’s preferred style. Ugh.
It’s been a rather squeaky-bum season for Emilia-Romagna’s biggest club, as the Rossoblu sit in 17th place, just 2 points ahead of Empoli and relegation. They’re peaking at the right time, though, winning 4 of their last 5, including a win over Torino; they’d love nothing more than to stick it to one of their biggest rivals right now.
Manager Siniša Mihajlović will have a bit of extra motivation to stick it to his former employers; he’ll be without standout fullback Federico Mattiello (leg) and forward Mattia Destro , but will otherwise have all the usual components for the 4-2-3-1 he’s preferred since his appointment as boss of the Oscar Meyers. The dangermen are powerful target man Federico Santander, who leads the club with 6 goals; midfielder and set piece specialist Erick Pulgar, who’s added 5; tricky wingers Riccardo Orsolini and Nicola Sansone; and Rodrigo Palacio, who is old enough to be the dad of pretty much everyone on Fiorentina’s roster. Goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski remains one of Serie A’s most consistently underrated goalkeepers, and Viola flop Diego Falcinelli is also on the roster.
We all know what to expect from a Mihajlović team: a compact defense that wants to control the middle, press high, and push opponents to the wings. That naturally requires a lot of grit in midfield, and Miha has plenty of powerful options in the engine room. Between the expected physical play, the high line he sometimes favors, and the lack of a real playmaker, this will be a exactly what you’d think from the Serbian tactician. He’ll want his charges to overpower the Viola, possibly with some skulduggery, and threaten via set pieces and dangerous wing play.
Things are as bad as you’ve heard: the Viola have won just once since the start of February, utterly torpedoing a once-promising season. A disjointed attack and invisible midfield have seen the side bleed points for two and a half months, leading to a dismal 10th place in the league with 39 points (that’s 10 behind Lazio and 7th place). The fallout has been the resignation of Pioli and some deeply unbecoming behavior from the club brass
It’s tough to know how Cousin Vinnie will approach things, as this Fiorentina midfield lacks the technical quality he’s used to working with. We’d expect something like a 3-5-2, since that brought him so much success all those years ago in Florence, but who he’ll choose is a mystery. Federico Chiesa could wind up at wingback (no) or striker, and Jordan Veretout is the only certain starter in the engine room. Basically, we have no idea what Montella will trot out.
With a hatful of attackers who like working the wide areas, Fiorentina will probably focus on playing down the wings, especially since the Rossoblu fullbacks like to get forward and Mihajlović teams tend to defend very narrow; the pace of Chiesa and Luis Muriel will be critical. Farther back, Veretout will have to run the show as usual. Montella won’t have enough time in training to really implement any new ideas for awhile, so expect to see a fairly similar style of play to the Pioliball we’ve all come to know and love.
How to watch
TV: Nah, but feel free to double check the international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This one is a mystery for any number of reasons. It’s always tough to predict the Derby dell’Appennino for one, and it’s even tougher to predict how this Fiorentina side, which has demonstrated some mental fragility this year, will respond to the departure of a well-liked manager and the arrival of one who’s a stranger to all of them (that’s right, there has been 100% turnover in the squad since Montella’s 2015 departure). We’re choosing to believe that the Viola will respond with a renewed focus and intensity to honor Pioli and brush aside the red-hot Felsinei by a score of 0-2, with the goals coming from Muriel on the break and Veretout from the penalty spot, with Chiesa the key man in both.