A whole hell of a lot has happened since Fiorentina drew at Udinese on 8 March, but for 90 minutes on a Monday (what the hell, Serie A schedulers?), we’ll at least be able to watch Fiorentina again as they host Brescia. In 46 meetings, the Gigliati hold a W22 D14 L10 edge, including the rather grim scoreless draw between them earlier this year. The Viola haven’t lost to the Leonessa since the Coppa Italia quarterfinals in 2001 (and still advanced); they haven’t lost in the league since a 3-1 reversal in Serie B, and haven’t lost at home against them since 1970. What we’re saying is oh no we just jinxed it.
There’s no word on the ref yet because I don’t know why, but rest assured that it’s probably someone slakas doesn’t like. I’ll update this when I get confirmation of who it is.
The match will be played on Monday, 22 June 2020, at 5:30 PM GMT/1:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for the hottest day of the year thus far in the city, so expect an even slower pace than you would after a 106 day layoff, especially without any fans in the stadium to buoy the players along.
After playing their way into the relegation places again, Fiorentina have steadied under new leadership and now sit in 13th place with 30 points and a -4 goal difference, which is just about the definition of midtable mediocrity; 5 points from their past 5 matches bears that narrative out, even if the actual play on the pitch has intermittent shown signs of life.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini has a few decisions to make, especially with the mercury expected to be so high, and the main one is how to deploy Franck Ribery. The French winger has been training as a trequartista, we’ve heard, but this may be the wrong time to deploy him there, as his job would include shutting down Sandro Tonali, and those 37-year-old legs probably can’t handle that, especially since Brescia will minimize space between the lines.
Assuming that he keeps using his 5-3-2, Iachini should see his team comfortably dominate the ball. The trick will be using it wisely; with Gaetano Castrovilli and Alfred Duncan running things in the engine room, there should be a bit more creativity than this team had last time out against the Rondinelle. Since there won’t be space in behind, the attack will likely focus on dribbling past opponents and getting runners into the box to meet low crosses and cutbacks, with Castrovilli particularly important in this regard. Otherwise, everything will rely on a moment of brilliance from Federico Chiesa or one of his fellow attackers.
The Rondinelle are back in the top flight for the first time since 2011 (when they were coached by none other than Beppe), but the good feelings haven’t been enough. They sit at the bottom of the table with just 16 points and a -27 goal difference through 26 games. Having collected just 3 points from their past 11 outings, there’s no reason to believe they’re heading anywhere but straight back to Serie B.
New manager Diego López, who replaced Eugenio Corini at the start of February, hasn’t turned things around, managing a draw and 3 straight losses in his tenure. The former Cagliari defender has favored a 4-4-2 for most of his managerial career but has been using more of a 4-3-1-2ish shape in Lombardy; whether the layoff has given him time to implement his preferred formation is one of the questions we won’t have answered until kickoff.
He’ll have to make do without leading scorer Mario Balotelli, who’s had a typically chaotic half-season at his hometown club, so either Ernesto Torregrossa or Alfredo Donnarumma will join Florian Ayé up top. That leaves even more responsibility on Tonali’s shoulders. Closing him down will be Fiorentina’s top priority, as he’s the engine that makes whatever attacking threat Brescia possess hum. Also keep an eye on rightback Stefano Sabelli, who loves to get forward; attacking the space behind him could pay dividends. Otherwise, Brescia will sit deep, cede possession, play exclusively on the break, and look to threaten via set pieces (centerback Jhon Chancellor has 3 goals already this year).
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Let’s start by saying that it’s pretty much impossible to predict anything here due to the countless variables at play: long layoff, suspect fitness levels, new tactical developments, heat, empty stadium, general weirdness. That said, I’ll hand this one to the hosts by a score of 2-0, as I don’t think that Brescia have enough in the tank for this one. Fiorentina should see lots of the ball despite their direct attacking as their opponents average the least possession in Serie A. That sort of end-to-end action may tempt Brescia out once or twice, and that’s when Chiesa will strike with a curler from the left channel. I’ll back a defender to score from a set piece as well; let’s pick the captain Germán Pezzella.