Fiorentina don’t have any time to bask in the glow of the first victory of 2020 (as hideous as it was) as they prepare to host Atalanta in the Coppa Italia. Since 1929’s Serie B, they’ve met 130 times, with the Viola holding a W57 D43 L30 record. Over their past 10 meetings, though, that record drops to W2 D6 L2, including last year’s thrilling 3-3 draw in the Coppa last year at the Franchi and a 2-2 draw in Bergamo earlier this year in the league. Too, Fiorentina haven’t lost to la Dea at home since 1993, which is a truly wild stat.
The referee for this one is 38-year-old Gianluca Manganiello of Pinerola. In his 12 appearances this season, he’s handed out 52 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 4 penalties, which indicates a desire to stay out of things (even when perhaps he should get involved, as he has yet to give a second yellow this year). The Viola have won all three matches he’s worked for them: a 2-4 triumph over Lazio to close out 2016, a wild 2-3 comebacker at Genoa in 2018, and last year’s historic 7-1 thumping of AS Roma in the Coppa.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 15 January 2020, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Firenze. The forecast calls for a lovely winter day with no wind or rain despite some cloud cover; it should even warm up to about 10C/50F by kickoff.
Having earned their first win since October on Sunday over last-place SPAL, Fiorentina have climbed to 14th place with 21 points, 6 off the pace for the final Europa League spot. They’ve even scuffled in the Coppa, conceding first against Serie C’s Monza and requiring a herculean effort to get past Serie B’s Cittadella last month. In the league, their form is also pretty miserable. Despite the positive result, this remains a team in crisis.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini may need to rotate his side pretty heavily, especially with Napoli on the docket for Saturday. With Lorenzo Venuti (suspension) unavailable, we could see the likes of Federico Ceccherini, Luca Ranieri, Milan Badelj, Riccardo Sottil, and Szymon Żurkowski come into the side. We’re also anticipating another appearance for new signing Patrick Cutrone. It will, as ever, be the 3-5-2 we’ve all come to know and love, unless Beppe wants to shake things up substantially, but odds are that it’ll be business as usual.
Iachini’s best bet is to slow down the pace of this match, which means we could see a lot of choppy play in the midfield. The only positive is that Atalanta are often vulnerable on the break, as evidenced by the 26 goals they’ve conceded. Fiorentina will have to keep a deep block, minimize space between the lines, and get their transitions just right to stand a chance here.
La Dea’s improbable success from last year has proven to be no fluke, as they currently sit 4th in the table with 35 points, largely thanks to the most potent attack in the league—their 49 goals on the year more than doubles Fiorentina’s 23. This is their first Coppa match of the season; elsewhere, though, they’ve been on an unholy tear, thoroughly outplaying leaders Inter Milan in a 1-1 draw on Saturday and winning their previous two matches by 5-0 over AC Milan and Parma. And with SPAL on tap for Monday (the difference in rest days here is absurd, so thanks FIGC), they won’t need to rotate the side too heavily.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini has used both a 3-4-1-2 and a 3-4-2-1 shape this year, depending on which of his nuclear-powered attackers he feels like running out that day. We’d guess that ex-Viola star Luis Muriel and attacking midfielder Ruslan Malinovskiy will get the nod alongside Papu Gómez, but Josip Iličić and Duván Zapata are both options as well. Further back, expect Remo Freuler and Timmy Castagne to step in as well.
You know what to expect from this Atalanta side at the point. The outside defenders will step up in possession to help break the press. The central midfielders rarely venture forward. The wingbacks stay high and often attack the back post as targets for crosses. The attackers drift around, looking for pockets of space to receive the ball in, then turn and quickly combine with each other to get past hapless opponents. They’re an absolute treat to watch, and it’s a shame that we have to root against them for now.
How to watch
TV: This one looks like you’ll need to stream it. Check the full international television listings here to make sure, though.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Ugh. This feels like the sort of match in which a drubbing vaporizes the few good feelings we had after that SPAL win. Given how contrary Fiorentina is, though, I’ll predict another 2-2 finish, with the Viola advancing on penalties when Muriel takes pity on his old club and skies one. Yeah, that’s what’s going to happen. Definitely not looking at a possible cricket score here, nope nope nope.