Fiorentina will play Monza in the Coppa Italia on Sunday, 18 August 2019, at 4:15 PM GMT/12:15 PM GMT, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. As far as I can tell, these two have never met in a competitive fixture, so let’s get to know a thing or two about the team and the town.
Tell me a little bit about Monza the town.
Sure thing. It’s the capital of the province Monza and Brianza in Lombardy. It sits on the Lambro River, a tributary of the Po. Known as Modicia under the Romans, it was possibly founded by the Insubres, although there’s evidence of occupation since the Bronze Age. There’s a fun story about how it got its modern name: Theodelinda, wife of King Authari of the Lombards, dreamed of a place on the banks of the Lambro where a dove told her, “Modo,” or “here,” in Latin. She responded with, “Etiam,” or “yes,” and the shrine—which eventually grew into a town—was named Modoetiam, leading to the contracted name Mondoetia, which was the name throughout the Middle Ages and eventually evolved into Monza.
For a fairly small city (population a bit above 123,000), it has a lot of history due to its centuries-long opposition to Milan; everyone from Holy Roman Emperors to Napoleon Bonaparte passed through, and the city was badly bombed in World War II. It’s best known now as the home of the Italian Grand Prix, one of the fastest racetracks in the world. It’s got its own Duomo (not nearly as good as the real one) and a bunch of cool churches as well as the Arengario, which is slightly reminiscent of Orsanmichele in Florence but pointier and brickier.
Okay, so it’s a town. What’s the story on the team?
Like so many lower-tier sides, S.S. Monza 1912 was re-established in 2015 after the original side, the excellently-named Monza Foot Ball Club, went bankrupt and folded. Although they’re not technically the same entity, we’re ignoring that. Known as i Bagaj (the Boys in the Lombardian dialect) or the Biancorossi for the red-and-white uniforms, they’ve played more seasons in Serie B without a Serie A appearance than any club in Italy, which is pretty wild. They haven’t been in the second tier since going down in 2001, though, and have been toiling in Series C and D ever since.
So how’d they get to this stage of the Coppa Italia?
You ask good questions. Monza saw off Piedmontese outfit Alessandria in a dominant 2-0 win on 4 August and followed that up with a thrilling 3-4 win over Benevento, who were, as you might recall, a (historically bad) Serie A side just 2 years ago; after taking a 3-0 win inside 50 minutes, they nearly let the Stregoni come back before scoring an 88th minute insurance goal, although a stoppage time strike made it a bit more anxious than they would have liked.
Fascinating, but let’s get something a little more specific on what we’re going to see.
Fine. They play a 4-3-1-2 and are likely to resort to some serious shithousery against a Serie A team, as well they should. They offer a threat from set pieces, but most of their goals come from crosses and, in particular, cutbacks. They like to play long balls into the channels for the attackers to chase and center, and they’re not afraid to get bodies into the box.
Their best player may well be Eugeno Lamanna, who’s not your average Serie C goalkeeper: the 30-year-old made 43 appearances for Genoa from 2014 to 2018 and could probably return to the top flight without missing a beat. Further forward, central defender Giuseppe Bellusci has a wealth of top-flight experience and was a regular youth international in his day. Veteran rightback Michele Lepore delivers a good set piece and gets forward when possible. Midfielders Marco Fossati and Nicola Rigoni have had some good moments in Serie A too. Strikers Mattia Finotto and Andrea Brighenti are both smart, experienced, and play their roles expertly
Wait a minute. Seems kind of weird that a historically small team suddenly has all these former Serie A players in their primes.
So here’s where Monza goes from plucky underdog to unspeakably evil: the team was bought up by none other than cartoon (and probably real life) supervillain Silvio Berlusconi bought the club last fall and brought ghoul-in-chief Adriano Galliani on board to run things. He’s apparently invested something like €11 million since then, which is a LOT more than the typical Serie C team spends on transfers; we don’t have data for the salaries, but it seems safe to say that the former prime minister and frequent disgrace/horrifying weirdo has shelled out much more than that when you take player wages into account.
Okay, now that I have a moral imperative to root against Monza, is there anything else I should know?
Unfortunately, yes. Monza does employ former Fiorentina striker Jefferson (legend on FIFA 09), although he seems to be pretty far outside the rotation, having spent last year on loan at Giana Erminio. More importantly, the coach is Cristian Brocchi, who, as you may recall, spent the 2005-2006 season on loan with the Viola from Lazio. He scored 3 times in 29 appearances under San Cesare Prandelli, including a long-range opener in this famous 2-1 triumph over Inter Milan.
Okay. So we’ve got an ex-Viola striker, an former player as coach, and the unholy twinning of Berlusconi and Galliani to deal with. We’re screwed, right?