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SPAL vs Fiorentina: Preview

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The Viola wrap up this strangest of seasons with a journey to Ferrara and the bottom-dwelling Estensi.

ACF Fiorentina v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Having smashed Bologna in the Derby dell’Appeninno for their final match at the Franchi this year, Fiorentina head north through Felsinei territory to Ferrara, where they take on SPAL in the last game of the season. In their 40 competitive meetings (the first was in 1938’s Serie B), the Viola hold a W18 D14 L8 mark. Since the Spallini climbed back into the top flight, it’s been 3 wins and 2 draws, including a truly dire 1-0 win in the reverse fixture.

The match will be played on Sunday, 2 August 2020, at 4:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST at the Stadio Paolo Mazza in Ferrara. It may well be the hottest game of the year, with temperatures expected to hover around 35C/95F. To compound the misery, it could also rain, so expect insane humidity as well.

SPAL

The cellar dwellers are probably ready for this season to end. Guaranteed to finish in last place, largely on the strength of a truly pathetic attack (just 26 goals in 37 games). They haven’t won during the restart, having scored 6 and conceded 30 in those 11 matches. All the players have left is to show their talent and hope that a top flight team scoops them up for next season, which could be enough for a shock result.

Manager Luigi di Biagio won’t have GK Etrit Berisha (hand), while CB Ervin Zukanović (ankle), CM Lucas Castro (hamstring), CM Mattia Valoti (hamstring), and CF Sergio Floccari (old as hell) are all doubtful. That won’t really impact di Biagio’s 4-3-3 setup, though, featuring Chonky Cat Andrea Petagna (12 goals, which is quite an achievement in this team) up top and Viola loanee Bryan Dabo (team-leading 4 assists in just half a season) in midfield.

With respect, there’s not much that the Società Polisportiva Ars et Labor does well going forward. Petagna is a good target man and knows both where to be and how to throw his considerable bulk around to arrive there. Gabriel Strefezza is a decent crosser of the ball, and that seems to be their primary avenue of attack. They’re also not afraid to shoot from distance, often in hopes that a rebound will fall Petagna’s way. They’re also fine from set pieces, having scored 40% of their goals from the spot or from free kicks.

Fiorentina

It may feel like there’s not much to play for at this point for the Viola: 10th in the table with 46 points (leading both Parma and Bologna on head-to-head results) means that they can’t finish lower than 13th and can’t reach 9th, as Hellas Verona hold the tiebreaker. However, a win here will guarantee a place in the top half of the table, which would count as an accomplishment, and could serve as a useful springboard for next season. Too, failing to get a result against SPAL would be just plain embarrassing.

Manager Giuseppe Iachini (confirmed for next season) will be without Rachid Ghezzal and probably Bartłomiej Drągowski. He’s said to the press that he intends to experiment, but in typical Beppe fashion didn’t elaborate further. Whether that means that guys like Kevin Agudelo and Igor will feature start, whether we’ll see a whole new tactical setup, both, or neither is impossible to predict, so guessing what that’ll look like on Sunday is probably a fool’s errand.

There are plenty of ways to attack SPAL, who’ve conceded at least 2 goals in 9 of their past 10 matches. Despite generally keeping a very deep line, they still somehow manage to allow space in behind, so expect to see the Viola looking for the forwards over the top or with through balls. The Estensi also seem happy to let teams fire away from distance, so maybe Gaetano Castrovilli will finally get one of those blasts in the back of the net here. In all frankness, though, the Viola should be able to generate myriad opportunities in a variety of ways; perhaps focusing on two or three avenues of attack to avoid choice paralysis is the most important thing here.

Possible lineups

SPAL may rotate like crazy for their last Serie A game for awhile, while Iachini says he’ll experiment, so who knows?

How to watch

TV: Maaaaybe on BeIn, but not many broadcasters are lining up to screen this one. Expect to stream this one. 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

Between the heat and the lack of real meaning for the result, this could wind up looking more like a friendly than anything else. Don’t expect a whole lot of intensity from either side. That said, Fiorentina are simply a better team; even if Iachini follows through on his “experimentation” promise, the Viola, despite an unfamiliar setup, should cruise through this. We’ll call it a 0-3 win, with goals for Dušan Vlahović, Christian Kouamé, and (why the hell not) Kevin Agudelo.

Forza Viola!