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Atalanta vs Fiorentina: Preview

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The Viola have one last chance to prove that this entire season hasn’t been a waste.

Atalanta BC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Fresh off a typically frustrating 2-1 defeat to Juventus that handed the Bianconeri their eighth straight scudetto, Fiorentina make the trip to Bergamo to take on an ascendant Atalanta side in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal after a wild 3-3 draw in the first leg back in Florence. In the 128 matches since they first met in Serie B back in 1929, the Viola hold a W57 D42 L29 record; over their past 10 matchups, however, that’s W4 D5 L1, with the one being a 3-1 beatdown in Serie A last month.

The referee for this one is 43-year-old Gianpaolo Calvarese of Teramo. In 19 matches this year, he’s handed out 80 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 9 penalties; he’s been much slower to send players off this year than usual but much quicker pointing to the spot. In the 12 Fiorentina games he’s handled, the Viola are W5 D4 L3, including the scoreless draw against Napoli earlier this year in which he made a few odd decisions.

The match will be played Thursday, 25 April 2019, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Atleti Azzuri d’Italia in Bergamo. The forecast calls for your typical damp spring day, with temperatures remaining reasonably warm despite the likelihood of a light rain.

Atalanta

It’s heady times for la Dea, who sit 5th in the league on 56 points, trailing AC Milan only on goal difference. Following a massive 1-2 win at Napoli on Monday, this is a team that surely believes in its destiny now. Undefeated over their last 8 league matches, the Nerazzurri are humming right along behind the second-best attack in Serie A. Really, all the Viola fans can hope for is that their northeastern opponents will overlook this tie and focus on qualifying for the Champions League by pipping Milan to 4th.

Manager Gian Piero Gasperini has his full squad with the exception of RM Hans Hateboer (suspended) and CB Rafael Tolói (knee). We can expect the usual 3-4-2-1ish shape with the deadly trio of Duván Zapata, Papu Gómez, and former Fiorentina attacker Josip Iličić leading the charge. Viola academy product Gianluca Mancini will also start in defense.

As with any Gasp team, the focus in attack will be moving the ball quickly from side to side in hopes of finding Gómez or Iličić between the lines. Zapata’s physicality will also provide a simple outlet. The wingbacks will push forward fearlessly into the box, often leaving the wide areas unattended (Fede, that’s your cue), while the central midfielders will sit deep. Defensively, man-marking at the back and high pressure up top will be, as ever, the order of the day.

Fiorentina

The departure of Stefano Pioli hasn’t exactly perked this side up, as they haven’t won either of the two games since he was sent packing. Mired in 10th place and even on points with Cagliari in 11th, they remain the absolute definition of a mediocre midtable side, despite the wealth of talent in the squad. The Coppa Italia is the only chance this team has of reaching the Europa League, so they know that they have to get a win (or a draw in which they score at least 3) if they don’t want this season to go down as a complete failure.

New boss Vincenzo Montella is missing GK Pietro Terracciano through injury and has called up Primavera stars GK Simone Ghidotti, CM Nicky Beloko, and CF Martin Graiciar. We can probably expect a 3-5-2 from Fiorentina, which could throw off an Atalanta side that grew accustomed to Pioli’s 4-3-3. Luis Muriel, Cristiano Biraghi, and Bryan Dabo are likely to return to the starting lineup.

As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, Montella will ask his side to keep the ball a bit more than we’ve seen under Pioli. Chiesa will probably stay wide to the right rather than drifting around as much, while Muriel will alternate between getting in behind and dropping deep to play on the turn. Getting those two isolated against slower defenders will be the focus. Defensively, the centerbacks probably won’t chase the forwards into the Atalanta half; as they’ve demonstrated, that leaves way too much space to break into. The defenders and midfielders should focus on staying compact and denying la Dea space between the lines.

Possible lineups

Berisha or Gollini, Masiello or Djimisti, Freuler or Pašalić; Gerson or Benassi, Simeone or Mirallas
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How to watch

TV: Check the full international television listings here. Looks like RAI and BT Sport may have it, but you should probably plan to stream this one.

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

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

The narrative says that this is the sort of game where Fiorentina eke out a win and reach the final, only to get smoked and lose any chance of European football in the most painful possible fashion. That’s why I’m predicting a 1-2 win, with a Zapata header from the hosts canceled out by a Muriel screamer and a Veretout penalty. Honestly, though, the Viola could just as easily fall flat here and get run out of Bergamo by a 4-0 scoreline; it’s tough to predict this team right now.

Forza Viola!