Fresh off barely beating Serie C’s Padova in the Coppa Italia, Fiorentina take the road south to take on AS Roma. In 187 previous competitive meetings (making them the Viola’s most-faced opponent) dating back to 1931’s Serie A, the Gigliati hold a W57 D66 L54 record, including a rather worse run of W2 D2 L6 over their past 10 meetings. The Lupi won this fixture 2-1 last year thanks to some truly awful refereeing from Daniele Chiffi.
The referee for this one is 44 year old Daniele Orsato of Vicenza. As one of Italy’s “top” referees, he’s handled games at all levels but only has one Serie A clash to his name this year. Under his watch, the Viola are W9 D12 L15. We saw him most recently in last year’s dismal scoreless draw against Genoa, but it’s also worth pointing out that he hasn’t overseen a Fiorentina victory in 14 games dating back to 2014. Between the absurd officiating in the previous Giallorossi match against AC Milan and Orsato’s natural inclination to give soft fouls around the box, expect some frustrating whistles in this one.
The match will be played on Sunday, 1 November 2020, at 5:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The forecast calls for another lovely autumnal day, with brisk temperatures, some clouds, and no rain. Basically, it’ll be everything you could possibly want in terms of weather.
A rocky start has seen capitol club slump to 9th place after 5 games with 8 points, one ahead of Fiorentina in the standings. After Hellas Verona pasted them in the opener, though, the Lupi have been much better, not losing in any competition since; their only draws are to Juventus and at Milan (which featured some awful refereeing), so they’re clearly finding their footing. Coming off a short week due to their Europe League responsibilities—a hard-fought scoreless draw against CSKA Sofia—there’s a chance that they’ll have some heavy legs in the squad.
Manager Paulo Fonseca will have to cope without RB Davide Santon (leg), DM Amadou Diawara (illness), and AM Nicolò Zaniolo (knee) but should have the squad depth to cover their absences, if just barely. He’ll likely set out the usual 3-4-2-1 formation that’s particularly impressive on the break but is also more than capable of keeping the ball, sliding players between the lines, and working creating chances around Edin Džeko’s excellent movement.
The most important part of stopping Roma is keepign Džeko tightly under wraps. The second thing is tracking midfield runners; Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pedro in particular excel at making runs into the box from unexpected angles, and they’ve also got the technical quality to string together one-touch moves to put themselves clear. Shutting down the ultra-creative Lorenzo Pellegrini could also be critical, but expect Fiorentina’s top priority to be sitting deep, denying space in behind, and crowding the middle.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more frustrating Serie A side than Fiorentina. Despite their obvious struggles, they’re in 10th place and look likely to finish the season around that spot as well. However, the team’s obvious mental fragility and inability to play a full 90 minutes even against much smaller sides are clear concerns for the supporters, who are beginning to get restless.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini has born the brunt of that frustration, largely due to his rigidly negative tactics. RB Pol Lirola (ankle) should be ready to go after missing some training sessions this week but CB Germán Pezzella is coming off a quick operation to clean up his troublesome ankle and will likely miss this one. Having rotated in all the reserves for the Coppa Italia match against Padova, Beppe will likely trot out his now-established XI despite fans’ pleas to see some changes in the lineup.
As we’ve seen time and again, this is actually the kind of game in which Fiorentina can surprise people. Against an opponent that wants to control the ball and push high, Iachini’s disciplined defense and quick counters can prove extremely effective. Getting Franck Ribery out in space with runners ahead of him will be crucial, since Roma will likely be discombobulated after losing the ball. They struggled quite a bit to defend corners against Sofia and were a bit careless in possession, so a negative game script is perhaps the best way to get a result here, even if the fans don’t like it.
How to watch
TV: BeIn might have it, but odds are that you’re streaming this one. Check the full international television listings here to be sure.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
I’m a bit more optimistic here than I ought to be, given Fiorentina’s miserable performances, because the Lupi are likely to keep a high line and throw numbers forward. That’s exactly what Iachini’s teams excel at defending (in theory, anyways, as they haven’t kept a clean sheet in over a month). That, combined with the hosts’ predilection for forgetting to mark at set pieces and occasional brain farts in possession, makes me think we’re looking at the sort of 1-1 that frustrates neutrals but feels like a win for the underdogs. Let’s say that the goals come from Dušan Vlahović and Džeko.