Fresh off the most successful week in recent memory, Fiorentina return home to take on a struggling Genoa. In 107 competitive meetings between these two since 1931’s Serie A, the Viola hold a W47 L37 D23 advantage. Over their past 10 meetings, though, it’s a less impressive W2 D6 L2, including a miserable 2-1 defeat at the Luigi Ferraris earlier this year. Also of note is the fact that the Rossoblu haven’t won in Florence since 1977, which is just nuts.
The referee for this one is 44-year-old Daniele Orsato of Vicenza, who’s widely considered one of the top refs in Italy (it’s been awhile since Pierluigi Collina, folks). In 10 league matches this year, he’s handed out 56 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 3 penalties. In the 35 Fiorentina games he’s handled, the Viola possess a rather grim return of W9 D11 L15. Last time we saw him, it was when AS Roma was busily beating Fiorentina like a drum to the tune of 1-4 earlier this year. To add to the insult, Piero Giacomelli is the VAR referee.
The match will be played on Saturday, 25 January 2020, at 5:00 PM/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast doesn’t call for extreme cold—it shouldn’t even be close to freezing—but it’s likely to be drizzling and gray, so we could see a slick playing surface.
It’s happy times again in Italy’s best city after a stunning week saw them win 3 matches: a 1-0 slugfest over SPAL, a very lucky 2-1 in the Coppa Italia over Atalanta, and a comprehensive 2-0 at Napoli. That’s pushed them up to 24 points on the season (even with Napoli, Bologna, and Udinese but trailing the former two on tiebreakers, according to Serie A’s website). With a difficult stretch coming up, the Viola desperately need to collect 3 points here, although a looming Coppa tie at the San Siro against Inter Milan may force some squad rotation.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will be without Dalbert (suspension), so Lorenzo Venuti is likely to start on the left. With the defense and midfield apparently sorted, the only question is which two of Federico Chiesa, Patrick Cutrone, and Dušan Vlahović will start up top in the Ballcap’s 3-5-2. Regardless, you know what to expect: a deep block, a desire to play quickly on the break through the channels, and a functional rather than fun style.
Against a team that defends just as deep as they do, Fiorentina will have to alter the approach that worked so well against Atalanta and Napoli. With limited space in behind, Gaetano Castrovilli’s ability to break down defenses off the dribble will be paramount. The battle of wingbacks will also be important; if Pol Lirola and Venuti can pin their counterparts back, Genoa will have trouble getting out of their own area. Not having Dalbert’s excellent crossing could be a blessing in disguise here, too, as the Grifoni will pack the box; instead, Fiorentina will have to look for quick combinations on the wings and through the center to unlock this puzzle.
It’s been a rough season for Genoa, who just barely escaped the drop last year after a listless draw against the Viola on the final match day, who’ve won 1 of their past 5 matches and lost the other 4, as well as flaming out of the Coppa Italia on penalties to Torino. Sitting at the bottom of the table and on their third manager of the year after Aurelio Andreazzoli and Thiago Motta both failed to earn even a point per match, they look like a good bet to end up in Serie B next year.
Current manager Davide Nicola, who’s been in charge since the end of December, will have to make do without CB Cristián Zapata (leg), CM Lukas Lerager (leg), CM Francesco Cassata (suspension), and CF Christian Kouamé. Nicola, like Iachini, has always been a 3-5-2 advocate. With a strengthened spine—Mattia Perin, Valon Behrami, and Mattia Destro have all arrived this month—the Rossoblu will hope to be a bit sturdier.
Nicola is a diet version of Iachini, generally choosing a very deep defense that looks to pack the middle and threaten with long balls on the break. With an attack spearheaded by old man Goran Pandev—3 goals in his past 4 matches—and featuring the wing play of Paolo Ghiglione—5 assists this year—you know they’ll play on the break. Expect a bigger striker up top paired with Pandev to win aerial duels and a steady stream of crosses from the wide positions. More than anything, though, expect a midfield that stays in position to protect the defense rather than getting forward and an attack that’s based exclusively around set pieces and grinta.
How to watch
TV: Very doubtful, sadly, but check the full international television listings here to be sure.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams. If you’re in the US, ESPN+ is showing it; sign up using this link if you don’t have an account yet and Viola Nation will get a little bit of cash (Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.).
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This feels like a serious letdown game, especially, given Genoa’s propensity to sit very deep and deny the space in behind that’s been this Fiorentina attack’s lifeblood. That said, the clear form and self-belief the Viola have started to exhibit stands in stark contrast to this listless Grifoni group, so we’ll call this one a squeaky, ugly win for the hosts by a scoreline of 1-0 behind a typically out-of-nowhere Marco Benassi goal. The real notable feature of the match, though, is likely to be the disjointed, physical, rhythmless play we’ll get to see for 90 minutes.