Fresh off an impressive scoreless draw that handed them their first point, the Viola travel to Bergamo for a clash with Champions League side Atalanta. In their 129 meetings since 1929, Fiorentina hold a W57 D42 L30 advantage with a +74 goal difference. Over their past 10 Serie A meetings (perhaps a bit more indicative of the current balance of power), they’ve managed an impressive W5 D4 L1, although that loss came in this fixture last year in the form of a remorseless 3-1; that record, of course, doesn’t include the walloping la Dea handed out in the Coppa Italia last year either.
The referee for this one is 43-year-old slakas favorite Daniele Orsato of Vicenza. In his 2 previous league matches, he’s issued 6 yellow cards; given his penchant for the dramatic—in his Serie A career, he’s handed out a red card every 4 matches on average—don’t be surprised if he breaks out on Sunday. Under his watch, Fiorentina have compiled a record of W9 D10 L14 over 33 games. We last saw him take charge of the farcical scoreless draw with Genoa to finish this past season.
The match will be played on Sunday, 22 September 2019, at 4:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM at the Stadio Gewiss in Bergamo. The forecast currently calls for a cooler day than any the Viola have played on this season, but it’s also likely to be sheeting down rain, which likely won’t help with a coherent game.
Fresh off 4-0 pasting at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb in their first-ever Champions League appearance, la Dea is still doing fine domestically; road wins against SPAL and Genoa have seen them look more competent than overpowering, although they fell 2-3 to Torino a couple weeks ago at home, leaving them winless in their own stadium this term. Whether they succumb to panic over their defeat in Zagreb or continue their league success is the question.
Knowing manager Gian Piero Gasperini, it’ll be the latter, especially since he can pick a pair of mercurial ex-Viola forwards in the red-hot Luis Muriel and Josip Iličić, although the dangermen are Duván Zapata and Papu Gómez. You know what to expect from Gasperini at this point: a 3-4-3 with the wingers drifting infield and the wingbacks fearless in getting into the box, while the central midfielders mostly sit deep and look to find passing angles into the attackers.
If Montella sticks with the 3-5-2 that he busted out against Juventus, la Dea will likely focus on attacking with width, looking to get its trident up against the Viola defenders on the break. Failing that, the wingers will, as ever, pinch in, looking to find space at the edge of the box, and encourage the wingbacks forward on the overlap. Closing down the shooters—all of Zapata, Gómez, Muriel, and Iličić are more than capable of striking from distance—will be crucial, but sticking so tight that those players can turn into space is just as bad. Vinnie will have to get his defensive tactics exactly right.
After holding the Juvenuts to a draw, Fiorentina isn’t in last place, which is, uh, a good thing? Of course, that means they’re sitting at a single point after 3 matches and winless in 17 straight league matches, which isn’t a very good thing. Between their recent history against Atalanta and their struggles to put together 90 minutes featuring consistency in attack, midfield, and defense, it’s not exactly unlikely that the streak reaches 18.
Manager Vincenzo Montella’s only absent player is midfielder Marco Benassi (knee), although the revelatory performances of Gaetano Castrovilli have rendered the former Torino man surplus anyways. The big question ahead of this one is the shape that Cousin Vinnie will pick: will it be the 4-3-3 that he spent the whole preseason using, will it be the 3-5-2 that gave Juve so much trouble last week, or will he whip out another wrinkle (probably the hybrid system he used all those years ago)? It really depends on how he wants to attack this tricky Dea-shaped puzzle.
The formation will govern the selections and thus the tactics, but there are a few things we can count on. Expect a lower block from Fiorentina, as they won’t want to give Zapata and Muriel space in behind, so the Viola attackers may not pressure until their opponents reach midfield or so. Pulgar and Badelj are perfectly suited to sitting in front of the defense and coping with the opposing wingers moving inside to become extra passing options, which means that Castrovilli could have a free role, playing as more of a 10 than usual. He may well be the key man, as he should find pockets of space between the lines, and will probably have the responsibility to link play.
How to watch
TV: Might be, as this is probably Sunday’s marquee matchup. Check here for the full international television listings.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
If Atalanta are worn out by their recent failure in the Champions League and aren’t entirely focused, this is a very winnable match. Even if Gasp gets their heads on straight, the visitors have a decent chance, largely due to the underwhelming performances thus far of the Dea defense: no clean sheets and more than one goal allowed in 3 of 4 matches. We’re expecting a pretty high-scoring affair, then, so let’s call it a 2-3 upset for Fiorentina, with Chiesa, Boateng, and Nikola Milenković on the scoresheet for the good guys, with Zapata and Muriel scoring for the villains.