Fiorentina lurch back to action at home against Hellas Verona. Since they first met in 1929’s Divisione Nazionale, they’ve played 73 times; the Viola hold a W36 D19 L18 advantage. Last time these two met at the Franchi, though, it was one of the lowest points in recent history for the good guys, which is saying something: a 1-4 defeat that resulted in a Curva Fiesole walkout, and even that may be underselling how bad it was. The reverse fixture was also ugly: a shorthanded 0-1 loss in Verona that saw Germán Pezzella get his face broken by a vicious Samuel di Carmine elbow after two minutes.
The match will be played on Sunday, 12 July 2020, at 5:30 PM GMT/1:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The forecast calls for a cloudless day with a good breeze, but it’s going to remain punishingly warm under that Tuscan sun, especially at the hottest part of the afternoon.
The Viola have acquired 5 points from their 5 matches since the restart. In case you’re wondering, that isn’t very good. They remain lodged in 13th place, probably until the heat death of the universe, with 31 points. While they’re likely safe from the drop—8 points up on Genoa with 7 games to go—a win or two would be awfully nice for those of us who generally await catastrophe with this team.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will have to make do without Alfred Duncan (suspension), who’s been one of the standouts over the past two games. Gaetano Castrovilli should be ready to go, though, so hopefully will add some thrust to the midfield. The real question is how Beppe will set up his forwards: Franck Ribery has to get a break some time before every tendon in his body snaps from the strain, Christian Kouamé isn’t fully fit, Federico Chiesa’s been a mess, Dušan Vlahović hasn’t been much better, and Patrick Cutrone’s been uneven. Given Hellas’ muscle in the middle and Duncan’s absence, a return to the 3-5-2 to better compete in midfield could be on the cards, especially if Castrovilli starts, but there’s really not way to know what’s going on under that ballcap.
Scoring on Hellas Verona is really hard. The midfield drops very deep when not in possession, almost forming a single line with the defense at times, so they’re about impossible to play through at the edge of the box. They’re also brilliant at springing forward to press and winning the ball to break the other direction, preventing opponents from finding a rhythm. They struggle against guys who can shoot from distance, so expect lots of pot shots from the Viola. As usual, Fiorentina will probably try to break them down through moments of individual skill and quick counters of their own, although that’s tough to do against this group.
While the European dream has faded since the restart, the Mastini are still one of Serie A’s biggest surprises after a year spent in the second division. Sitting pretty in 9th place with 43 points despite a goal difference of 1, Hellas have let the best defense outside of the top four carry them to security this year. If they still think they’ve got a shot at the Europa League, this team will be playing with a desperation that’ll make it doubly dangerous; however, the fact that they’ve conceded at least 2 goals in their past 4 means the Dumutru Effect may be in play.
Manager Ivan Jurić is largely responsible for the impressive year; although he hasn’t appreciably changed his tactics much from his recent history at a succession of yo-yo clubs, his motivational skills have gotten the most out of an odd group. He’ll be without 8 players due to injury, which limits his personnel options, so expect to see the usual 3-4-2-1 with lots of familiar, and possibly quite tired, faces. Keep a close eye on Sofyan Amrabat, who’s perhaps the best midfielder in Serie A this season, as he works a deep role that combines defensive discipline with control of possession, as he’ll be in Florence next year.
Stopping Hellas from scoring isn’t as difficult as scoring on them, but it’s not easy. Jurić’s roots as a Gian Piero Gasperini disciple are easy to spot, as he likes his teams to move the ball quickly and constantly push forward to overload an opposing defense. Transitions, though, are where this team really shines; they spring forward seamlessly on winning the ball, which they do quite well, so expect to see them on the break quite a bit. In this regard, the dangermen are the wingbacks, particularly speed demon Darko Lazović on the left, who leads them in assists. Striker Samuele di Carmine isn’t anything special (although Pezze may want a word with him), and the other attackers are more functional than magical.
How to watch
TV: Nope. Check the full international listings here if you don’t believe it.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This feels like another low-scoring affair, given the sides involved, with lots of scuffling and lots of long balls over the top. I can’t imagine an understaffed Fiorentina midfield breaking down its counterpart, so any inspiration will have to come from out wide. A draw feels about right here, with a belter from Chiesa and a scruffy finish from di Carmine providing the goals. That said, it wouldn’t be any sort of surprise if Hellas scored once or twice and then shut up shop for the remainder of the match.