With nothing left to play for this year except pride, Fiorentina return to the Franchi to face Sassuolo for the 12th time ever. Over the previous 11, the Viola hold a W5 D4 L2 advantage, including a Cyril Théréau-inspired 3-0 triumph in this fixture last year and a bonkers 3-3 draw at the Mapei back in September.
The referee for this one is 34-year-old Francesco Fourneau of Rome. This will be just his 4th ever Serie A match and second this year—he’s mostly handled Serie B. In 10 games in the second tier, he’s handed out a 62 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 4 penalties; his only top flight match resulted in 5 bookings but nothing more drastic, so it’s tough to get a strong read on him. He hasn’t ever reffed a Fiorentina game, so we don’t have any reason to dislike him yet, although slakas should be able to dig something up.
The match will be played on Monday, 29 April 2019, at 7:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a crisp, pleasant spring evening with no rain and perhaps a light breeze. Should be lovely conditions.
Fiorentina have still won just a single Serie A game in the year of 2019, which is, uh, bad. They’ve slumped to 10th place, well out of reach of both Europe and the drop, and are about as boring a mid-table side as you can imagine. We’re in fullblown Dumutru Effect territory, as the players have nothing to play for other than their jobs next year.
New manager Vincenzo Montella has yet to win in his return to Florence. After trying out a 4-3-3 against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia, he’s likely to stick with that shape, although he may opt for the 3-5-2 again in an effort to fluster his opponent. Expect Bryan Dabo and Giovanni Simeone to return to the starting lineup as he tries to further refine his possession-based tactics with this group of players who seem wholly unsuited for such a system.
Given Sassuolo’s poor defensive record and habit of loose play at the back sometimes, a high press is probably the best possible idea; the Neroverdi are much better moving the ball through the middle and can probably pass the Viola off the pitch in that area. A deep line to counter the pace of Domenico Berardi is probably wise, so we could see the middle of the pitch rather open, which could lead to more Piolish play. Then again, Cousin Vinnie is all about keeping things compact, so Fiorentina could be stuck in a liminal space and pretty well shoot themselves in the foot, which would just be so out of character.
With a win, a loss, and three draws over their past 5 matches, you can’t really say that the Neroverdi look like anything but a midtable side of late; while their form to open the season was scintillating, they’ve since slowed down a bit and now sit 12th in the league with 38 points, 2 back from their hosts.
Manager Roberto de Zerbi has forged an entertaining, attacking side based around possession. With CB Marlon (leg), CB Giangiacomo Magnani (leg), RB Claud Adjapong (ankle), and DM Manuel Locatelli (suspension) all questionable or out, he could have a defensive shortage on his hands, indicating that he’ll probably use a 4-3-3 rather than the 3-4-1-2 he’s dabbled with as well. That indicates an even more fragile defense than usual, which is certainly dangerous for a side that’s conceded the 4th-most goals in the league this year.
Of course, the defense isn’t de Zerbi’s primary arena. Dating back to his time in the third tier, he’s always fielded teams that focus on attacking through possession. Pressing them high up can lead to quick turnovers, so Giovanni Simeone could be a good option in attack for this one. They’re very clever up the pitch, however, with a number of players capable of playing dangerous passes or finishing them, so the Fiorentina rearguard will have to stay very alert. Too, they have quite a roster of former Viola players: CF Khouma Babacar, CF Alessandro Matri, and GK Giacomo Satalino all used to play for Fiorentina. The main threats are Babacar, winger Domenico Berardi, and CM Alfred Duncan.
How to watch
TV: Probably not, but check the full international listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This one feels like it’ll revolve around two factors: whether Fiorentina can win the ball high up the pitch and capitalize, and whether Babacar will come back to score against the Viola for the second time this year. We think that the first is a yes and the second a no, so I guess that means we think Fiorentina will win their first game since beating SPAL. Goals for Chiesa and Simeone seem likeliest, so let’s go with a 2-0 for Montella’s first victory in Florence since 2015.