After putting Lecce and its historically bad defense to the sword, Fiorentina get a somewhat stiffer test against a dangerous Torino side at the Franchi. In their 155 meetings (the first was a 4-2 win for the good guys in 1931’s Serie A), the Viola hold an impressively symmetrical record of W51 D53 L51, born out by their W3 D4 L3 over their past 10 in Serie A. In the reverse fixture, the Granata beat a miserably poor Vincenzo Montella side in a 2-1 that didn’t reflect the poor quality of the Tuscans.
The referee for this one is 38-year-old Maurizio Mariani of Aprilia. In 18 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 93 yellow cards, 10 red cards, and 6 penalties, which are all about in line with his career averages. Fiorentina are W4 D1 L2 under his watch; he’s handled 3 of their games this year, the most recent being a 1-2 loss to Atalanta.
The match will be played on Sunday, 19 July 2020, at 5:30 PM GMT/1:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for a genuinely hot, still Tuscan summer day, so expect some sluggishness under that burning sun.
Despite the big win over the Salentini, Fiorentina are still struggling a bit since the restart, having grabbed 9 points from the 7 games with a goal difference of 0 to hold steady in 13th place with 39 points. That said, they only need 5 points from the remaining 5 fixtures to mathematically assure that they’ll play in Serie A next year. Since it’s unlikely that Lecce will win its next 5, it could be tough to motivate this group to go all out.
That’ll be Giuseppe Iachini’s job. He may be a bit nervous about the fitness of GK Bartłomiej Drągowski and CM Gaetano Castrovilli, who’ve both dealt with soft tissue injuries in the past couple of games, and will also worry about Castrovilli, Erick Pulgar, Lorenzo Venuti, and Pol Lirola being a booking away from suspension. Expect him to return to the 3-5-2 that worked against the Gialloblu, although we’ll likely see some rotation at every level of the side.
The best way to attack Torino, by the numbers, is through set pieces; they’re inexplicably bad a defending dead balls despite being otherwise quite good in the air. That’s a real problem when you lead the league in fouls, so expect the Viola attackers to have full license to dribble at defenders. Since the Torino wingbacks who have to offer the width in attack, the Viola midfielders may do well to drift out and combine with their own wide players to overwhelm them and exploit the space behind. The middle of the pitch, however, is likely to be shut; il Toro has a selection of strong, mobile, and gritty options in the engine room, and the Viola likely don’t have the quality to pass around them.
10 points from 8 games since restart isn’t bad, but neither is it particularly good. The silver lining is that the losses have come against heavy hitters Juventus, Lazio, and Inter Milan (and Cagliari?), so the team’s actually playing a bit better than it might seem from the recent form table. Still, 37 points is good for 15th place, so il Toro could be a bit more motivated than their opponents to get a result and stave off the drop.
Manager Siniša Mihajlović has used both a 3-4-1-2 and a 3-5-2-1 in recent games, but we’re leaning more towards the former, with Simone Zaza keeping his spot in the XI. The dangerman is obviously Andrea Belotti and his 16 goals up front, leading an attack whose 41 goals equals Fiorentina’s tally. The difference is at the back, where this group has conceded 60 (just 2 fewer than last-place SPAL) and will look to tighten things up, having conceded 10 goals in their past 3 games.
Torino’s approach isn’t a secret to anyone: with a pair of aerial threats up front, they want to get the ball wide and put in as many crosses as possible. Fiorentina won’t play an especially high line as both Belotti and Zaza have the pace and intelligence to sneak in behind, so the wingbacks will need to do well in slowing down their opposite numbers. Again, this match will be won or lost in the wide areas, so figuring out how to win an advantage there is priority number one.
How to watch
TV: Looks like ESPN and RAI are your best bets for this one. Check the full international television listings here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina haven’t won at home in their past 7 and Torino haven’t won away in their last 7, so it’s a bit too easy to predict a draw. However, given the visitors’ struggles at the back and the hosts’ recent signs of life (unbeaten in 4), I’ll call this one a 3-2 win for the good guys. Kouamé will get his first goal, with Chiesa and Germán Pezzella also chipping in from a quick counter and a set piece, respectively; let’s call it for Belotti and Alex Berenguer getting the consolations for Torino in a game that will be played almost exclusively in the wide positions because anyone getting the ball in the middle third of the pitch will get some real toe leather for his trouble.