Following a scoreless draw against Genoa last week that may have been more costly than we’d like, Fiorentina get ready for another midweek Coppa Italia tie, this time against Inter Milan. In their 174 competitive meetings with the Nerazzuri going back to 1931’s Serie A, the Viola hold a W49 D56 L69. Over their past 10 meetings, however, the Gigliati are W4 D3 L3, including a 1-1 draw last month featuring a cameo from the Incredible Hulk.
The referee for this one is 42-year-old Daniele Doveri of Rome, who’s risen up the UEFA ranks to work Champions League qualifiers. In 13 matches this year across all competitions, he’s issued 52 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 1 penalty. In the 21 Fiorentina matches he’s worked, the Viola hold a record of W13 D1 L7. We saw him earlier this month, in the gut-punch of a 1-0 win over SPAL, as well as the way-too-tense 2-1 win over Sampdoria back in September that featured a bit of controversy.
The match will be played Wednesday, 29 January 2020, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio San Siro in Milan. The forecast calls for a surprisingly warm winter day, although it’s likely to cool off by kickoff. With no clouds, no wind, no rain, and pretty much nothing that could possibly interrupt a lovely evening, it should be a fun one to attend.
You might think that this season had been a ringing success for the Nerazzurri thus far: trailing leaders Juve by just 3 points and poised to bring in a surfeit of riches this January for a second-half push, the blue side of Milan has reason to celebrate. However, 3 straight draws in Serie A against rather unimpressive opponents and an early exit from the Champions League have il Biscione feeling some imposing doom.
Manager Antonio Conte (no stranger to trouble in continental competition) is dealing with plenty of injuries: CM Marcelo Brozović (ankle), CM Roberto Gagliardini (foot), and LM Kwadwo Asamoah (knee) are all unlikely to feature, so we could see ex-Viola players Borja Valero and Matías Vecino in the engine room. No matter who’s out there, though, we know that Conte will trot his men out in a fanatically well-drilled 3-5-2.
Conte’s got Inter playing a much more possession-oriented game this year even without Brozović, so expect the hosts to dominate possession with calm passing across the back. The wingbacks stay very wide at all times while the midfielders will flood to one side of the pitch, looking to work the ball around quickly until a quick vertical pass opens up or the opportunity to switch play arises, so Fiorentina will have to stay very disciplined in the middle. Striking pair Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez excel at working the channels, too, so a deep block and constant communication at the back will be necessary to come out of this with a result.
Despite last week’s bummer of a match, Fiorentina remain undefeated in 2020 and have lurched up to 13th in the Serie A table, which puts them 6 points behind Parma in the final European spot. This match comes at the worst possible moment, though: following a grueling fixture against the last-place Grifoni, they get Serie A’s second-place team in the Coppa in midweek, followed by a trip to leaders Juventus on Sunday. The brass may have to pick which competition means more.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will have to work without standout CM Gaetano Castrovilli (head), who picked up a scary knock against Genoa. That could mean a return to the XI for Milan Badelj, although there’s an outside chance that we see Szymon Żurkowski as well. Otherwise, expect the usual XI, albeit with an even larger emphasis than ever on Federico Chiesa.
The best way to attack this Inter outfit is probably on the break, particularly in the spaces to the side of the holding midfielder. Without Castrovilli, it’s hard to see who’s going to take advantage of those areas; we could see Chiesa move deeper and more central than usual and play on the turn. Crossing into the thicket of big, athletic defenders the Nerazzurri employ is unlikely to pay dividends, and their wingbacks get back quickly to cut off the wide areas anyways. The best option here is probably to sit back, suffer, and hope for a clinical finish or two on the break, especially with Tanino in the stands.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Ugh. Must we? This Inter side is talented, motivated, and much deeper than its Viola opponents. The only silver lining we can dredge up is that they may play Fiorentina as if Vincenzo Montella were still in charge rather than Iachini, which could open them up on the counter, especially without a natural holding midfielder available. We’re going to cling to that hope with our fingernails like a drowning man onto a piece of driftwood and call it a surprising 1-2 win for the visitors, who’ll earn a smash and grab with goals from Marco Benassi and Dušan Vlahović to overcome a Lautaro strike, despite the hosts keeping the good guys penned into their own area for the vast majority of the match.