While Sunday’s last-gasp draw against Hellas Verona felt like a win, Fiorentina badly need an actual three points to put any relegation fears to bed for once and for all this year. They’ll get a chance with a mid-week trip to Lecce. In their 35 meetings since they first faced off in 1929’s Serie B, the Viola hold a W13 D11 L11 mark, including a 0-1 loss in the reverse fixture which was one of Vincenzo Montella’s worst outings.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 15 July 2020, at 7:45 PM GMT/3:45 PM EST at the Stadio Ettore Giardiniero in Lecce. The forecast calls for a cooler-than-expected day in Apulia, but it’ll still be plenty warm when the game kicks off. We’re talking about southern Italy in July, yall. It’s hot.
After shipping 15 goals in their first three games since the restart, Lecce have shown signs of life over their past two outings, tallying a shocking win over Lazio and a scoreless draw at Cagliari. That leaves them in 18th place (the final relegation place) with 29 points, just 1 behind Genoa and safety. With their backs against the wall, expect this group to fight like mad to avoid the drop. This isn’t going to be easy.
Manager (and former Fiorentina standout) Fabio Liverani has some injury absences, none bigger than Gianluca Lapadula (ankle). He’ll set out his usual 4-3-1-2, featuring a fluid tridente with one striker dropping deep or pulling wide and the trequartista often drifting wide as well. Keep an eye out for a host of ex-Viola players, including Khouma Babacar, loanee Riccardo Saponara, and Jacopo Petriccione. The dangerman may look like captain Marco Mancosu, who’s got 11 goals from midfield, but 7 are from the penalty spot, so it’s hard to say who’s the main threat, although the Cheese has been in good form since moving to Apulia as well.
The Lupi have actually scored more goals this year than Fiorentina, though, so it’s not like they’re hopeless in attack. Petriccione and Alessandro Deiola can play the killer ball over the top (they’re a long passing side, not a long ball side), and the front three are very tricky in possession, as evidenced by the 13 penalties they’ve won (3rd best in the league). They rely on that tridente to create chances from open play and to win fouls for set pieces, from which they’ve scored at a good rate as well. They also take shots from distance with alarming regularity, so Bartłomiej Drągowski will have to stay focused throughout.
Despite the good vibes from that last-second draw against Verona, Fiorentina remain in a nervous position. 13th with 36 points is likely safe from the drop with a 7-point lead above 18th and just 6 games left, but Serie A is crazy and the Viola are more than capable of melting down at the worst moments. Their form since the restart is deeply uninspired, with just 6 points from those 6 games, including a single win. The real danger is that the Dumutru Effect takes hold, leaving the good guys certain that they’ve achieved midtable security and opening them up to upsets from hungrier sides at the bottom of the table.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will welcome Alfred Duncan back to the lineup, but the fitness of Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli has to be at the front of his mind. The real question is if he’ll sacrifice an attacker for an extra midfielder, especially after the team showed itself unable to cope with heavy pressing in the middle last time out. Federico Chiesa should return to the starting lineup, while Patrick Cutrone, Dušan Vlahović, Lorenzo Venuti, and Martín Cáceres could be rotated in as well.
While Lecce’s attack is good, their defense is simply catastrophic. It’s the worst unit in Serie A and has conceded a jaw-dropping 71 goals, which means they’re in the running for the most ever (Benevento with 84 in 2017-2018). A lot of that is that the players simply lose the ball in dangerous spots a lot, so pressing them in midfield and at the back should pay dividends. They’re also not very good at maintaining an offside trap, so this could be a great game for Vlahović up top to get his mojo working by running in behind, while Chiesa is likely to find plenty of joy in that department as well.
How to watch
TV: Weirdly enough, this one’s on ESPN in the US, although it doesn’t seem to be on any other channels anywhere else. Check the full international television listings here.
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 game sets up pretty well for the Viola, who have the pace to get in behind a mistake-prone Giallorossi defense and cause serious problems, especially with Chiesa’s speed and Cutrone’s clever movement. I’ll call it a 1-2 win for Fiorentina, though, because there’s no way that Petriccione and Saponara won’t combine to set Babacar up for a goal, but it won’t be enough to overcome a Chiesa strike from distance and a Vlahović tap-in after Ribery causes a mess.