The referee for this one is 35-year-old Davide Ghersini of Genoa. He’s only handled 12 Serie A games in his career (including just one this season), but he’s got a reputation for handing out penalty kicks, having pointed to the spot six times in those dozen matches. He’s handled a single Viola outing: 2018’s confident 3-0 win over SPAL.
The match will be played on Sunday, 22 November 2020, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a bright, cloudless autumn day in Tuscany: no rain, no wind, just sun and sweater weather.
Fiorentina remain exactly where we left them two weeks ago: 12th in the table with 8 points from 7 games and a -2 goal difference. New boss Cesare Prandelli—managing the Viola again after a 10-year absence—is the man tasked with taking a flawed but unquestionably talented group of players into the top half of the table after Giuseppe Iachini got the axe. While we have some ideas of what to expect from San Cesare, he hasn’t had much time to implement his ideas, so it’s tough to predict to much.
[20 November 2:30 PST ed. note: I changed the next two paragraphs to reflect the news that all players have tested negative and should be available.]
He may have to make some changes from his initial plans, too. While RW José Callejón (illness) and CB Germán Pezzella (ankle) are still training apart from the rest of the squad, the latter should be ready from the start. With the Spaniard unlikely to feature from the start, that means we could see a 4-3-1-2 instead, as Prandelli has stated his intention to move to a four-man defense. That module would see Franck Ribery slot in as the trequartista behind two of Christian Kouamé (who has a history with Prandelli from their time at Genoa), Patrick Cutrone, and Dušan Vlahović.
While this team hasn’t had time to gel yet, especially with 6 major contributors having missed the past week’s worth of training due to their international duties, we can expect the team to be a bit more patient with possession. Expect to see a lot of Amrabat dropping deep to retrieve the ball and targeting either the advancing fullbacks or the forwards drifting wide. With two options in the box, Cristiano Biraghi and Pol Lirola will likely have full authorization to bomb in crosses as well. Since intricate passing combinations through the middle aren’t likely with such few practice reps, we could see a lot more of Kouamé battling to win long passes so that Cutrone and Ribery can win the second ball.
The Stregoni have clawed their way to 16th in their return to the top flight after a 2-year absence caused by the worst defense Serie A had ever seen. The defense is, once again, the problem area, as they’ve conceded a league-worst 20 goals through 7 games and have lost their past 4, including a 0-3 loss at home to Spezia last time out. They really need to turn things around if they don’t want a repeat of their 2017-2018 campaign.
Manager Filippo Inzaghi will have to cope without CB Alessandro Tuia (face) and CF Gianluca Caprari (suspension), while RW Iago Falque may be healthy after an injury layoff. It’ll be the usual 4-3-3 from the Campanians, with ex-Viola midfielder Bryan Dabo bringing his silky physicality to the middle and ex-Viola defender Christian Maggio manning the right flank.
The Giallorossi have mostly defended deep this year and looked to break quickly through a nippy tridente that tries to get in behind. Since Fiorentina will likely have to push the fullbacks forward to create width, expect the visitors to relentlessly target the channels with a succession of thumps. They’re also pretty good from set pieces, having scored half of their 10 goals from dead ball situations, so expect to see that front three go to ground easily. If Inzaghi can get the balance right, there’s enough quality going forward here to seriously trouble a reshaped Viola defense.
How to watch
TV: BeIn may have it, depending on your location. Check the full international television listings here.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams. If you’re in the US, ESPN+ is showing it; sign up using this link if you don’t have an account yet and Viola Nation will get a little bit of cash (Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.).
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Everything here points to a Fiorentina win. Between the new coach bounce and Benevento’s terrible form and defending, you’d back the hosts to see out a victory for Prandelli’s new reign. However, that’s exactly the kind of game that the Viola tend to trip over, and Benevento’s habit of coming back from losing positions (at least at the start of the season) doesn’t augur well for the Tuscans, who’ve let slip myriad leads already this year.
However, we can’t darken San Cesare’s return with any negativity, so we’ll call this one a 3-1 win for the good guys, with Christian Kouamé, Patrick Cutrone, and Erick Pulgar (via the penalty spot) on target for Fiorentina, while Dabo sets up a consolation goal for Lapadula at the other end. Wouldn’t that be nice?