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Udinese vs Fiorentina: Preview

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The Viola get some midweek action with a return to the Coppa Italia.

ACF Fiorentina v Bologna FC - Serie A
Probably the key man, if we’re being honest.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Fiorentina will stagger back into the Coppa Italia after edging past Serie C’s Padova last month. That means going north and east to take on Udinese. In 100 previous competitive meetings dating back to Serie A in 1951, the Viola hold a W50 D28 L22 record. Over their past 10, they’ve managed a W6 D3 L1 mark, including a 3-2 league win in October.

The referee for this one is 38-year-old Marco Serra of Turin. He’s only reffed 5 Serie A games in his career and only been the head official in 3 games this season, in which he’s handed out 12 yellow cards and a penalty. He’s never worked with Fiorentina before, but does have a reputation for the dramatic: 5 yellow cards, 0.3 red cards, and 0.3 PKs through his career in the top two tiers of calcio and the Coppa.

The match will be played on Wednesday, 25 November 2020, at 4:30 PM GMT/11:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Friuli in Udine. The forecast calls for a lovely late autumn day in the northeast of Italy, with a chilly but clear sky. It sounds nice enough until you remember that Fiorentina are going to play in it, which rather sours the mood.

Udinese

The Zebrette have taken 7 points from 8 matches and aren’t exactly flying high, although they’ve only lost 2 of their last 6, including an impressive scoreless draw at Sassuolo. They’ve kept it reasonably tight at the back, conceding 11 goals, but have scored just 7. That said, this feels like a classic Udinese team. You know, the type that finishes 14th by making themselves tough to beat, grinds out some results, and perfectly defines mid-table anonymity despite one of the lower payrolls in Serie A.

Manager Luca Gotti will be without DM Walace (hamstring), CM Mato Jajalo (suspension), and LW Gerard Deulofeu (personal), but none of those absences will change his usual 3-5-2 system. Like every Udinese team from the past decade, you know what to expect: rugged defenders at the back; a physical, tough midfield that squeezes space between the lines and stays compact; and an attack full of hard grift rather than fantasia. With a trip to Lazio looming, the mister will probably give his bench a chance to work.

With guys like Rodrigo de Paul, Ignacio Pussetto, and Roberto Pereyra, Udinese like to play on the break: they average the 4th-lowest possession share in the league. However, with some pace and skill, they’re decent in transitions. More than that, though, they like to shoot whenever half an opportunity arises, which explains why they’ve taken so many shots compared to how many goals they’ve scored. If neither of those approaches work, they’ll lump the ball in for the hulking Stefano Okaka, which explains why they cross the ball more than any club in Serie A. Only Crotone have tallied fewer goals from open play than the Zebrette, though, so it’s not like this is exactly a rocket-powered attack.

Fiorentina

The Viola remain the same dire outfit they’ve been for the past few years, unable to get out of their own way and accomplish anything worthwhile despite what is, on paper, a talented squad. Fresh off an astonishing loss at home to Benevento, they’ve dropped to 15th in the table with 8 points and haven’t won in any competition since beating Padova in the previous round of the Coppa. That was nearly a month ago. Things are grim.

New manager Cesare Prandelli, tasked with stopping the rot, will likely rotate his side in an attempt to get a better sense of the talent at his disposal, especially with capolista AC Milan up next in Serie A. Pietro Terracciano, Lucas Martínez Quarta, Antonio Barreca, and Borja Valero should all start, while Franck Ribery (hamstring), Giacomo Bonaventura (leg), and José Callejón (fitness) remain scratched due to health. The lack of natural wide attackers means we’ll probably see something similar to the very narrow 4-3-2-1 that he trotted out against Benevento.

As ever, this is a really well-drilled defense that excels at squeezing opponents into the wide areas. They concede the 3rd-fewest shots per match and win a lot of aerial duels, which backs up the eyeball test that they play deep and narrow, then let their big guys at the back hammer everything clear. They’re good at not fouling, too, so don’t expect any free kicks to bail out a sputtering attack. The best bet might be to find space in behind a rather cumbersome back line, but it’s hard to see a team full of backups trying to process a new manager’s philosophy breaking down a team as disciplined as Udinese without some divine inspiration.

Possible lineups

Bonifazi or Nuytinck, Samir or de Maio, Coulibaly or Arslan, Lasagna or Pussetto; Cáceres or Pezzella, Duncan or Amrabat
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How to watch

TV: Almost certainly not. Check the full international television listings here if you want, but you should plan to watch this one on the internet.

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

This doesn’t seem like it’s going to be fun at all. As mentioned, Udinese defend really well together as a unit and are tough to break down, which is pretty much exactly the type of team that Fiorentina has been unable to solve. You get the sense it’ll take a moment of unexpected genius from an unlikely source or an absolute howler from the hosts for the Viola to score in this one.

And, since TMBGD is a place for unbridled optimism, let’s just pretend like that’ll happen. A 2-1 win for the good guys behind goals from Cutrone and Castrovilli, with Kevin Lasagna reducing the arrears, feels like the best possible outcome, so we’ll just lie to ourselves and go with that. Realistically, this is probably going to be a game that’s played almost entirely in the middle third with no shortage of fouls, sloppy touches, and general badness. The winner will likely come down to who makes the least catastrophic mistakes. Given recent form, it’s awfully hard to imagine that’ll be Fiorentina, but we’ll never stop hoping.

Forza Viola!