Fresh off a 1-5 pasting of Sampdoria, Fiorentina return home to take on a resurgent AC Milan. In their 172 meetings (the first was the opening match of the 1931 Serie A season), the Viola hold a rather embarrassing record of W50 D47 L75. It’s better over their past 10, in which the good guys are W4 D2 L4, including a comprehensive 1-3 triumph at the San Siro earlier this year.
The referee for this one is 44-year-old Gianpaolo Calvarese of Teramo. In 10 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 58 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 3 penalties, indicating a penchant for letting things go, especially in the box. In the 14 Fiorentina games he’s handled, the Viola are W5 D5 L4. Last we saw him was October’s scoreless draw against Brescia, which featured a pretty stupid yellow card on Federico Chiesa for a dive which really wasn’t.
The match will be played on Saturday, 22 February 2020, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a lovely, sunny day, although the clouds will probably move in around sunset.
Having dispatched Samp in style last week, Viola fans are suddenly a lot more optimistic than they were after three straight (actually quite competitive) losses against teams at the top of the table. Now in 13th place, the relegation chatter has quieted down, at least, although we can all agree that this is a mid-table club, nothing more and nothing less.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will stick with his tried and true 3-5-2. After Alfred Duncan’s impressive debut last week, he should be a lock for the XI; Duśan Vlahović has also likely earned a spot. The only real selection issue is in defense, where Martín Cáceres and Igor will vie for a single spot. Milan Badelj’s suspension also means that there are limited options in midfield, so we could get another look at Kevin Agudelo off the bench.
Given Milan’s focus on width, the fullbacks seems often up the pitch. That is exactly where Fiorentina will attack, with Chiesa, Vlahović, and Gaetano Castrovilli likely to pull wide to stretch the opposing backline and look to win 1-v-1 battles or fouls; Milan have struggled to defend set pieces this year, which makes the Viola defenders good bets to score.
Although a loss in the Derby della Madonnina earlier this month has capped the optimism, the Rossoneri have turned a corner of late; that’s their only loss since December, leading to a rise up the standings to 8th, even with Hellas Verona and Parma on points for the final Europa League spit.
Manager Stefano Pioli is doing it with a return to disciplined, basic style of play that Fiorentina fans should well recall. With fitness concerns for CB Simon Kjaer (thigh), CB Léo Duarte (ankle), CB Mateo Musacchio (calf), DM Lucas Biglia (knee), CM Rade Krunić (foot), RM Alexis Saelemaekers (ankle), and AM Hakan Çalhanoglu (hip), we could see an unfamiliar lineup to fill out Pioli’s 4-4-1-1.
As you may recall, Pioli is stylistically a spiritual cousin to Iachini. However, he’s shown a preference for keeping the ball a bit more this year, mostly due to Ismaël Bennacer’s cleverness in possession. That’s partly because Zlatan Ibrahimović lacks pace in behind but remains a lethal target in the box. Keep an eye out for ex-Viola attacker Ante Rebić on the left wing; he’s scored 6 goals in his past 7 outings and would surely relish putting one past Fiorentina. With such rugged forwards, expect a steady stream of crosses, which has been Milan’s modus operandi for the past couple months.
How to watch
TV: BeIn may have it, depending on your location. Check the full international television listings here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This version of Milan is the sort that Fiorentina should find some success against: trying to control possession at the Franchi against this Iachini-led outfit means leaving gaps for them to exploit on the break, which spells trouble for anyone hoping to contain this attack. However, the presence of noted Viola-killer Ibrahimović and an in-form ex in Rebić, combined with some concerning my frequent mistakes at the back, mean this isn’t one-sides at all. We’ll take a hard fought and scrappy 2-1 for the hosts, with Germán Pezzella and Castrovilli goals overcoming one from Zlatan.