Fresh off their first competitive win of the Rocco Commisso era (an alarmingly tense 3-1 win over Serie C outfit Monza in the Coppa Italia), Fiorentina will now try to get their first league win under the new owner’s watch over Serie A titans Napoli. In 157 meetings since 1931, the Viola are W56 D48 L53. Recent history, however, has favored the Partenopei significantly: over their past 10, Fiorentina are a rather dismal W1 D4 L5, including a scoreless draw in this fixture last year that would have been a loss if not for some Alban Lafont heroics.
The referee for this one is 38-year-old Davide Massa of Imperia. He’s issued 576 yellow cards, 21 red cards, and 44 penalties in his 124-game Serie A career. In 17 matches under his watch, the Viola are W8 D7 L3. He’s shown just 32 cards in those clashes, although he’s also handed out 4 spot kicks. Most recently, he oversaw a rather chippy 2-2 draw at AS Roma last year in which he probably could have done more to settle things down in the midfield.
The match will be played on Saturday, 24 August 2019, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast predicts a hot evening with some rain during the day to increase the humidity even more, although hopefully the mercury will have descended a bit from its afternoon peak by then, at least.
We’ve already got a very new-look Fiorentina as compared to last year, with a few low- and mid-key signings in the summer leading up to the astonishing acquisition of Franck Ribery on a Bosman. While it seems likely that there will be at least one more big addition to the squad, it’s unlikely that whoever it is will have time to get acclimated enough to play on Saturday, so we know which players to expect.
Mister Vincenzo Montella has a few tough choices, primarily in midfield and at striker. While Milan Badelj and Erick Pulgar are both guaranteed to start, the third midfielder is trickier to figure out. Kevin-Prince Boateng could drop back and add a more attacking nature to the engine room, but Marco Benassi could keep his role there too, and there’s an outside chance that youngster Gaetano Castrovilli could earn a look. If Boateng doesn’t get the nod in the middle, he could start at striker, although Dušan Vlahović’s heroics last week have surely earned him at least a chance, and Giovanni Simeone is still lurking around the periphery as well.
The boss will want to ensure defensive solidity in the face of an absurdly overpowered Napoli attack; of particular importance will be limiting space in behind and between the lines, although that’s easier said than done even for a pair like Pulgar and Badelj. Fiorentina’s way forward is probably working the wide areas and through the channels, looking to hit quickly on the break. With Federico Chiesa and Ribery bearing the brunt of the attacking responsibility, expect to see lots of dribbling and individual brilliance from the Viola wide men.
The Partenopei have mostly stood pat in this transfer window, with former Roma defender Kostas Manolas the only major signing (although he’ll form a frightening partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly). Eljif Elmas, once linked to Fiorentina, is unlikely to leap into the starting XI over so many established options. Chucky Lozano should officially arrive today or tomorrow too, although the Mexican superstar probably won’t play without training with his new team.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti will probably continue to use the fluid 4-4-2 that looked so sharp last year, with Manolas the only new addition. A magnificent performance throughout the U21 Euros has probably cemented Fabián Ruiz as Allan’s partner in midfield, although Piotr Zieliński and Elmas could feature too. While Lorenzo Insigne will play on the left wing and Arkadiusz Milik will work as one of the strikers, any of Dries Mertens, José Callejón, Adam Ounas, Amin Younes, and Simone Verdi could fill the other two attacking roles depending on Ancelotti’s plan.
The visitors will likely play a high line in hopes of controlling the game, trusting their defenders’ pace to see off any threat in behind. The fullbacks will get forward to provide overloads, so their Viola counterparts will have to be very intelligent in their positioning, and the fluidity through the middle will require flawless communication from Fiorentina all over the pitch.
How to watch
TV: RAI and BeIn look like your best bets. Check the full international television listings here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Doesn’t feel like a chance in hell that this one ends scoreless; Napoli’s too good going forward, and Fiorentina seems well-designed to take advantage of that high line. Let’s call it a 2-2 draw, with goals from Insigne and Mertens for the visitors and Chiesa and Vlahović for the hosts in what should be a very entertaining, open game.