A typically tumultuous Fiorentina kick of the new decade with a trip to Bologna for the first Derby dell’Appennino of 2020. In 144 competitive meetings since 1931, the Viola hold a W56 D47 L41 edge. Over their past 10, the good guys are W7 D3, including a scoreless draw full of errant finishing in this fixture last year (which also included Cyril Théréau’s penultimate appearance for the team). To up the ante, it’s worth noting that the Viola haven’t lost this derby since 2013, which means that the Felsinei may see this as a chance to avenge 7 years of futility.
The referee for this one is 41-year-old Paolo Valeri of Rome, who’s one of the few Italian referees who’s allowed to work continental and international fixtures (and perhaps slakas’ favorite official). In his 8 outings in the league this year, he’s handed out 34 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 4 penalties. In the 26 Fiorentina matches he’s worked, the Viola hold a W10 D11 L5 mark; last we saw him, he was working a controversial 2-0 win for the good guys over Atalanta last year.
The match will be played on Monday, 6 January 2020, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna. The forecast calls for a clear, crisp winter day, with nary a cloud in the sky and barely any wind. Bundle up.
It’s been a solid year for Oscar-Meyer’s finest in the standings, where they’ve fought their way to 9th place with 22 points despite a -2 goal difference. While they’re unlikely to push on for a European spot—at 7 points back of Cagliari, it’s not very realistic that they’ll mount a push—but they’re almost certainly assured of staying up for another season and could finish in the top half, which would qualify as a smashing success; 9th is the highest they’ve finished since 2002.
Manager Siniša Mihajlović has been one of Serie A’s most inspiring stories this season. Following his diagnosis with cancer (reported on by a bunch of real dill-hole journalists when he was hoping to keep it quiet), he’s stuck to the bench and run training whenever possible despite his regular treatments. He’s a hard man, but you already know that.
Anyways, he’s missing LB Mitchell Dijks (foot), CM Blerim Dzemaili (thigh), and LW Ladislav Krejčí (knee). As you may recall from his Viola days, Mihajlović likes a 4-2-3-1 formation that clogs up the center of the pitch and operates on the counterattack. With pacy, clever attackers like Riccardo Orsolini and Nicola Sansone supporting the evergreen Rodrigo Palacio, expect a focus on transitions going forward, with the wingers trying to beat a man and find old man Palacio in dangerous spots, with Roberto Soriano and Andrea Poli also driving forward in support as well.
Alright, let’s just say it. Fiorentina have sucked this year: 17 points from 17 matches is a pretty miserable return, a -7 goal difference indicates that it’s no fluke, and that kind of performance is good for 15th in the league. The team hasn’t won since October and has only taken 2 points since that win over Sassuolo. In short, folks, things are dire.
Enter Giuseppe Iachini, who’s replaced the wholly ineffectual Vincenzo Montella as manager. While he’ll have to work without LW Franck Ribery (ankle), he has the rest of the squad at his disposal. How he sets out is the real question: he’s historically favored a 3-5-2, but we’ve heard reports that he could opt for a 4-3-3 or even a 4-3-1-2. That mystery is probably his greatest weapon heading into the match, so don’t expect him to tip his hand until the lineups come out, and maybe not even then.
Until we know what sort of shape Iachini’s using, we can’t really make any assumptions about tactics beyond his usual brand of football, which involves fantastic defensive organization, overrunning the middle with numbers, looking to quickly switch play to the wide areas in an effort to isolate the weakest link in defense, and striking through set pieces and individual brilliance. It’ll be interesting to see where he deploys Federico Chiesa (assuming that he’s healthy), which midfield configuration he wants, and which striker(s) he opts for.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Dead coach bounce is a thing, so we’re expecting a decent showing from Fiorentina here despite having a new manager and a (presumably) new system. While a derby is always unpredictable by its very nature, we think that the Viola will defend stoutly and nick a couple of goals on the break via Gaetano Castrovilli and Pedro (!), so let’s go with a 0-2 win for the good guys.