A reeling Fiorentina return home to take on another relegation candidate in Udinese. This will be the 100th competitive meeting between these two (dating back to 1930’s Serie B), so expect some sort of mention from the commentators. The Viola hold a W49 D28 L22 edge since then, including a W6 D3 L1 over their last 5 league meetings. They haven’t fallen at home to the Friulians since 2007, when Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio di Natale were running the show.
The referee for this one is 36-year-old Francesco Fourneau of Rome. He’s only handled one other Serie A match this year (and seven total in his career); the more vengeful Viola fans may be thrilled, as he’s the man who sent off Federico Chiesa for a fairly innocuous challenge on Luca Cigarini. The only other Fiorentina game he’s handled was the 0-1 loss to Sassuolo loss a couple seasons ago that featured some iffy penalty decisions but nothing too grim.
The match will be played on Sunday, 25 October 2020, at 5:00 PM GMT/1:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio in Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a lovely Tuscan autumn day, with temperatures holding in the light jacket range (or full on puffy coat if you’re Italian) with some cloud cover and a light breeze. You couldn’t ask for better conditions.
Things are starting to get pretty dire for Fiorentina. Since winning the opener against Torino (the only team in the division without a point), they’ve slumped to a heartbreaking defeat at Inter Milan, a migraine-inducing loss at home to then-winless Sampdoria, and then a shocking 2-2 draw at newly promoted Spezia that featured a 0-2 lead within the first 5 minutes and then nothing good afterwards. 4 points from 4 games aren’t the results that please owner Rocco Commisso or the fans, and rumors of a major shakeup will only increase without a resounding three points here.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini has been under fire for his rigid and offensively anemic tactics, but he’ll at least have his entire squad (minus CM Borja Valero) to pick from. While the fans are desperate to see a shakeup in the midfield, where Sofyan Amrabat has struggled as the holding player—Erick Pulgar and Alfred Duncan are desperately needed—it could be the defense where we see changes, as Martín Cáceres has been catastrophic this year and Lucas Martínez Quarta looks like a perfect fit in his spot. The striker is also a toss up between Dušan Vlahović and Christian Kouamé, although the latter may well get a chance this time out.
Udinese have struggled to defend the wide areas this year because they pack the center with a lot of big defenders, so crossing against them isn’t a particularly fruitful avenue of attack. With so many attack-minded players in the XI, the Viola’s best bet may be to sit back a bit, let them over-commit, then counter-press and gallop the other way (although that will only feed the fires of Iachini’s critics). The other key piece will be keeping the ball ticking from wing to wing, as we saw this group do against Torino. Quickly shifting possession from wing to wing and throwing the Zebrette off balance may be the best way to get into the box rather than just working it wide and lobbing in crosses.
It may have required facing a coronavirus-depleted Parma, but Udinese have their first points of the season after a late winner from Ignacio Pussetto. That doesn’t detract from their previous 3 losses, including a 0-2 in Udine to Spezia in the season opener. Those 3 points, though, mean that they’re now in 17th place. Despite some decent players, this looks like a club that will spend all year trying to claw against relegation.
Manager Luca Gotti has some major selection headaches, especially at the back. GK Juan Musso (knee), CBs Bram Nuytinck (hamstring), Kevin Bonifazi (ominously unknown), and Sebastian Prödl (ditto), RBs Jens Stryger Larsen (same) and Nahuel Molina (also), and CMs Mamadou Coulibaly (yikes) and Walace (hamstring) are all unavailable. The Zebrette will play their usual 3-5-2, so Gotti will have to figure out how to shoehorn in Rodrigo de Paul, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, Kevin Lasagna, Nacho Pussetto, and Stefano Okaka.
With de Paul, Deulofeu, and Pereyra, Udinese’s favorite tactic is to get their best dribblers in space to break down opposing defenses; they lead Serie A in successful dribbles per game. As Iachini may order his players into a higher line, that could play into their hands. To complement that technical ability, they’re pretty good from set pieces due to the very large dudes on the roster, so avoiding fouls in dangerous areas will be paramount. They also take the 7th-most shots in the league, meaning Bartłomiej Drągowski will need to be on his toes, as this outfit will shoot on sight. Basically, it’s the same damn Udinese we’ve seen for the past decade. You know what to expect.
How to watch
TV: Maybe BeIn? Probably nowhere, though; not a lot of broadcasters clamoring for a bottom-half-of-the-table clash. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
It’s awfully hard to feel very confident about Fiorentina right now, especially since Udinese could be the sort of dribbling side that troubles them. However, Iachini seems like the type to rally the troops—as he did several times after the restart—and get a result at home, especially since his job is probably on the line. We’ll call it a 2-1 to Fiorentina with Kouamé and Castrovilli on target for the good guys and Kevin Lasagna nabbing one for the visitors. As for the pattern of play, this feels like one where Fiorentina get an early goal, bunker back, get another on the counter, retreat even further, concede, and then spend half an hour hanging on for dear life. Can’t wait.