It’s been quite an offseason for Fiorentina full of stuff that’s been fun(nish) to follow, but it’s finally time to shake the dust off and get back to games that matter. Due to a calamitous finish in Serie A last year, the Viola have been drawn into the third round of the Coppa Italia rather than the usual fourth round or round of 16. Facing them is Monza, a club which we profiled here. As far as we can tell, this will be the first ever meeting between the two.
The referee for this one is 36-year-old Fabrizio Pasqua of Tivoli. In 5 matches under his watch, Fiorentina are W1 D2 L2, including last year’s 2-1 loss at Juventus. In 42 Serie A games, he’s handed out 144 yellow cards, 7 red cards, 7 penalties, which shows a tendency to let the little stuff slide but come down hard on the big stuff.
The match will be played Sunday, 18 August 2019, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast predicts a scorcher: hot, muggy, and oppressively humid; don’t be surprised if the play winds up being a bit cagier than you might expect due to the heat.
What a few months it’s been. The last time we saw the Viola play a meaningful game, they were scrapping with Genoa to ensure their Serie A survival on the season’s last day. Since then, a new owner, some new backroom staff, some new players, and a whole lot of attitude have changed the team significantly. The only match we’ve seen with most of the first team active was a 4-1 romp over Turkish champions Galatasaray last week, although the difference between a friendly and a competitive fixture is enormous. That said, failing to advance to the next round of the Coppa here would torpedo all the cautious optimism around this team right now and send fans back to the land of wind and ghosts.
Manager Vincenzo Montella has, for the most part, made his first XI clear. He’ll be without Germán Pezzella (suspension), meaning that Luca Ranieri or Federico Ceccherini will partner Nikola Milenković. Milan Badelj will anchor the midfield, but we could see any combination of Erick Pulgar, Gaetano Castrovilli, Marco Benassi, Kevin-Prince Boateng, or Szymon Żurkowski to round out the engine room. Up top, Federico Chiesa is a lock to start, but the other attackers—Boateng, Giovanni Simeone, Riccardo Sottil, Dušan Vlahović—are a mystery. Even a surprise transfer announcement probably wouldn’t allow the new arrival to fit into the lineup on such short notice.
As we’ve seen, Cousin Vinnie’s favored a 4-3-3 thus far. Expect to see the fullbacks drive forward to take advantage of Monza’s lack of width; the midfield’s ability to switch play effectively will be crucial there too. The Biancorossi will probably double up on Chiesa, so the other attackers will need to win 1-v-1s with their defenders to take advantage, which could indicate that Boateng and Sottil will get the nod.
While in some ways it’s heartwarming to see a Serie C squad punch its way up to face a Serie A team, the realization that Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani are behind the success is enough to make anyone sensible root against i Bagaj. They beat fellow third flight side Alessandria comfortably by a score of 2-0 a couple weeks ago and survived a bonkers 3-4 affair against Serie B’s Benevento last week.
Manager Cristian Brocchi (yes, he spent a year playing for Fiorentina) will be without centerback Ivan Marconi (suspension), meaning we’ll probably see a pairing of Filippo Scaglia and Giuseppe Bellusci. Keep an eye on Franco Lepore at rightback: the 34-year-old (whose birthday is today, coincidentally) is a dead ball specialist. In midfield, Marco Fossati and Nicola Rigoni will scrap away.
Monza generally stay deep and compact defensively, then break forward quickly with balls into the channels for their attackers to chase. Expect a lot of low crosses and cutbacks, as that’s Brocchi’s preferred attacking method. They’re also decent from set pieces, so watch for some shithousery to win fouls. In fact, watch for some shithousery in general; this is basically going to be like playing a Rolando Maran team, but with the potential for even more frustration.
How to watch
TV: Looks pretty sparse. Check RAI if you’re an optimist. Full international television listings here.
Online: Also looks iffy, but check here. We’ll update if/when we find out that Fiorentina will be streaming it somehow.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
No offense to Monza, but this shouldn’t be too close. If you take the form Fiorentina displayed against Galatasaray and add Fede, this should go according to plan. Let’s call it 3-0 with goals from Fede, KPB, and Milenković, from a solo run, some nice interplay with the midfield, and a set piece, respectively. The Viola should pretty well have the run of midfield and, on paper, have the creativity to unlock what will doubtless be a deep defense.