Fresh off facing the second-place team in the Coppa Italia, Fiorentina get a trip to Turin to take on Serie A’s capolista. In their 179 official meetings (the first was in the top flight in 1931), the Viola hold a record of W39 D57 L83; it’s even worse over their past 10, which have given our purple heroes a W1 D1 L8 mark, including a 2-1 reversal last year that clinched the league for the Juventus, despite Fiorentina looking more dangerous (two drives off the woodwork from Chiesa, a 1-v-1 flub from Dabo, and an own goal from Pezzella really smarted). On the other hand, the Viola were miles better in the scoreless draw between these two earlier this season, so there’s a bit of hope.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Fabrizio Pasqua of Tivoli. He tends to be hands-off, issuing just 36 yellow cards and a single penalty in his 9 Serie A matches this year. In the 7 Fiorentina matches he’s handled, the Viola are W3 D2 L2. We’ve seen him twice this year: in the recent 0-2 triumph at Napoli, when he denied a pretty clear handball from Allan, as well as the opening Coppa Italia match against Monza. He also worked this fixture last year, so there’s that.
The match will be played Sunday, 2 February 2020, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. The forecast calls for a pretty nice winter day: partly cloudy, not to cold, and with a slight chance of drizzle but probably not. In short, should be a perfect morning to be in the stands.
Yawn. The Juvenuts are in first place in Serie A again with 51 points, 3 ahead of Inter, and coasted through their Champions League group without a defeat and will face Lyon in the round of 16. They’ve also breezed through their Coppa Italia qualifying thus far. However, Napoli broke their 5-match winning streak last week and they’ve already fumbled the Suppercoppa to Lazio, so it’s not a perfect season, even if a big win here is just what they’ll want to steady the nerves.
Manager Maurizio Sarri has plenty of injury concerns, especially in defense: CB Giorgio Chiellini (knee), CB Merih Demiral (knee), RB Danilo (hamstring), RB Mattia de Sciglio (hip), DM Emre Can (illness), and CM Sami Khedira (knee) are all unlikely to play. Sarri’s vacillated between a 4-3-3 and a 4-3-1-2 of late, but either way, the loathsome Cristiano Ronaldo is the star of the show with 17 goals so far. Paulo Dybala will probably occupy one attacking spot, with Gonzalo Higuaín, Federico Bernardeschi, and Douglas Costa all hoping to fill the other.
While Sarri earned praise for his high-tempo, aesthetically-pleasing teams in Naples and Empoli, he hasn’t brought that to Turin yet; the Bianconeri tend to grind out results, largely due to a midfield that’s more functional than creative. Defending Ronaldo is obviously priority one, but since he’s not the type to make his own chances these days, choking his supply seems like a decent option as well. Look for a typically deep line with Erick Pulgar frequently shifting wide to help Pol Lirola and Nikola Milenković encircle the Portuguese in an effort to make someone else step up for the Bianconeri.
Despite a loss (and a decent showing) in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal on Wednesday to Inter Milan, the Viola remain undefeated in Serie A in 2020; the 2 goals they conceded against the Nerazzuri is as many as they allowed in the 5 previous matches (weird that that’s when Vincenzo Montella left town too), and that defensive stoutness has led them to 13th in the league with 25 points, 6 behind the final European spot.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will still be without CM Gaetano Castrovilli (brain), CF Kevin-Prince Boateng (hamstring), and LW Franck Ribery (ankle), but will welcome back CB Germán Pezzella. Expect Milan Badelj to continue in midfield unless a certain Sassuolo midfielder arrives very soon, while Patrick Cutrone should get a run up top.
Weirdly enough, this defense hasn’t been as dominant as we expect from Juve. Expect Federico Chiesa to work against makeshift fullback Juan Cuadrado while Cutrone looks for space against Mathijs de Ligt. The Bianconeri will likely push way up the pitch, leaving a lot of space in behind on the break; especially without Castrovilli and Ribery out, there’s no dynamism in the middle, so expect Marco Benassi to be the only player going forward from that zone. Dalbert will need another big day as well if the Viola want to threaten this defense, but it feels like Chiesa is probably the main man here.
How to watch
TV: Check BeIn, TLN, and DAZN depending on where you are. Full international television listings are here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
We’re not going to act like you’re dumb enough to think that the talent standpoint between these two is anywhere close. Fiorentina haven’t won in Turin since 2008’s Papa Waigo-inspired comeback, and going in absent Castrovilli and on short rest is way, way less than ideal. Let’s just hope that things don’t get out of hand, although the fact that Juve’s midfield hasn’t been as impressive as years past, as well as a short-staffed defense that plays a high line, provide the slimmest outline of hope for the good guys. Just enough to hurt us even more.