Lurking just above the relegation zone after getting big brothered by AC Milan and looking for an excuse to enter full meltdown mode, Fiorentina return to the friendly confines of the Franchi to host the even more forlorn Genoa. In 110 competitive meetings since their inaugural clash in the 1928 Divisione Nazionale, the Viola hold a W47 D38 L25 edge overall, although that drops to W2 D6 L2 over their past 10, including last year’s scoreless draw that featured a superhuman display from Bartłomiej Drągowski.
The referee for this one is 43 year old Daniele Doveri of Rome. In 5 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 14 yellow cards; given his historical rates of a red card every 4 games and a penalty every 3 games, you’d think he’s due. In 22 games under his watch, the Viola are W13 D1 L8. The last time we saw him was the 2-1 Coppa Italia loss to Inter Milan last year.
The match will be played on Monday, 7 December, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a pretty miserable evening, frankly. It’s going to be cold and rainy, and not just that night: the pitch will have taken a good soaking over the previous several days, which always seems to favor the team that wants to sit deep and break up play more than anything.
With 4 points from their past 5 league games and a run of 4 straight without scoring, it’d be understandable if Fiorentina fans were feeling pretty anxious even if they weren’t 17th in the table with 8 points, just 2 ahead of Torino and the relegation places. This accursed season, featuring wins only over that same pathetic Torino side and Udinese in Serie A (as well as a pair of unconvincing efforts in the Coppa Italia that have seen the Viola move to the round of 16), has been enough to drive even the staunchest of supporters to consider switching allegiance to Poggibonsi.
Manager Cesare Prandelli is out after testing positive for coronavirus, so top lieutenant Gabriele Pin will take the reins. He at least gets the full XI to choose from. We’ve heard whispers that Lucas Martínez Quarta and Alfred Duncan could get surprise starts after last week’s XI put in a disinterested shift; that would likely push Martín Cáceres and Erick Pulgar to the bench assuming that the brass wants to continue with the 4-3-3 we saw last week. Given the propensity for chopping and changing tactics we’ve seen thus far, though, it wouldn’t be a shock if the team played with a midfield diamond this time out.
With Prandelli unavailable, we likely won’t see any massive changes in approach under Pin. Expect Fiorentina to dominate possession without too much difficulty (the visitors are happy to stand off and concede the midfield) and try to build down the left wing as per usual, looking to get the most out of Franck Ribery and Cristiano Biraghi. As Genoa favor that same side, keeping Biraghi high could also help the defense, as he could help pin the Grifoni back. Since they’re also good at defending set pieces, that’s likely not the best avenue for attack. Instead, look for the Viola to press in hopes of forcing their opponents into mistakes and break from there.
As bad as it’s been for Fiorentina this year, it’s been even worse for Genoa. They boast a single win in the league (over recently-promoted Crotone back in September) and have lost 4 straight in Serie A, despite an upset win at Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia last week. That sort of form is good for 19th in the table, leading just the hapless Squali, with 5 points. Their 8 goals scored, 18 conceded, and -10 difference would be worst if not for poor Crotone, so the Grifoni can’t even pretend they’ve been unlucky. They’re bad.
Manager Rolando Maran has no shortage of injuries to worry about: GK Mattia Perin (hamstring), GK Federico Marchetti (old), CB Davide Biraschi (shoulder), LB Domenico Criscito (knee), RB Davide Zappacosta (leg), CM Filippo Melegoni (leg), and CM Francesco Cassata (leg) are all out or doubtful. Maran, perhaps due to the rash of injuries, has ditched his beloved 4-3-1-2 in favor of a 3-5-2, although it’s pretty similar in practice to what we’ve come to expect from the veteran mister.
You know what to expect from a Maran team. They defend deep, work the channels in attack, and offer a muscular presence in midfield. They’re very reliant on Gianluca Scamacca for goals (he’s got 6, which is 4 more than anyone else), so they’re largely built around him. He’s excellent at holding off a defender and slipping passes through for his strike partner, so look for Genoa to target him with long passes and get runners moving off him. Failing that, they’ll attack through set pieces (with a bunch of big dudes, they’re a threat there) and via the good crossing that Paolo Ghiglione offers.
How to watch
TV: Doesn’t look likely, but check the full international television listings here to be sure.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are going to control the midfield. Look for them to try and isolate Gaetano Castrovilli against the lead-footed Milan Badelj, but more than anything, expect Genoa to present a typically Maranesque wall that denies opponents any reasonable avenues of attack. The goals are likely to come from individual mistakes; replacement GK Alberto Paleari is playing his first season in Serie A, so the Viola will likely try their luck from distance a bit more to test him and may look for more crosses than they usually do in hopes that he’ll spill one.
To repeat what we said ahead of the Benevento game, everything favors the hosts here. Fiorentina should be able to score their first goal in 399 league minutes, given that Genoa have conceded in their past 6 Serie A matches. I’ll say it finishes 2-1, with the goals coming via Callejón after Castrovilli dispossesses Badelj up the pitch and from a Christian Kouamé header, with a Scamacca blast from distance reducing the arrears and leaving us all very anxious for the final whistle.