We bring you this break from the non-stop deluge of transfer news these past few weeks with some good news: Fiorentina will actually play a real Serie A game in a couple of days. They’ll host a new-look Torino in the league’s first match of the season. In their 156 competitive meetings dating back to 1931, the good guys hold a record of W52 D53 L51, including W4 D3 L3 over their past ten meetings. In this fixture last year, Fiorentina produced a brilliantly controlled 2-0 victory to mathematically secure survival in the top tier.
The match will be played on Saturday, 19 September 2020, at 4:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. The forecast calls for, you guessed it, a pretty dang warm day, especially considering the kickoff time; it’s going to be hot for these players, which could add to the raggedness of the season opener after such a bizarre summer.
It’s a whole new year for the Viola, with the limitless possibilities that every fresh start brings. While Rocco Commisso has downplayed expectations—asking for a top-half finish is a transparent effort to keep the players and staff from stressing too much, and seems like a nice thing to do—this club has the talent and the ability to push for Europe, especially with a (truncated) off-season to get on the same page and a few key reinforcements.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will try to build on his impressive work last time out, which means maintaining the best defensive record in the league while nourishing an attack that was often anemic. The arrivals of Sofyan Amrabat, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Borja Valero should go a long way towards that latter goal, as all three excel at breaking deep defensive blocks. Really, figuring out how to cram them, Gaetano Castrovilli, Erick Pulgar, and Alfred Duncan into the heart of his beloved 3-5-2 will be Beppe’s greatest personnel challenge. We expect the rest of the XI to be what it was last year.
Federico Chiesa should get a fair amount of joy running from deep, as he’ll be attacking an area that his opponent will likely leave fairly open at transitions. Given the narrowness of Giampaolo’s system, the Viola wingbacks should be the outlets; if they can feed the ball back inside to the midfielders or drive on themselves, they should cause all sorts of problems. Franck Ribery will, as ever, be tasked with unlocking the defense, but should be helped by that reinforced engine room and thus won’t have to carry the entire creative load himself.
Just as Fiorentina ended last season with a very impressive run, il Toro wrapped up with a genuinely pathetic showing, taking just 12 points from their 13 matches after the restart and slumping to a 16th place finish, just 5 points away from relegation. Former boss Moreno Longo was very clearly in over his head, and the players all knew it; none of the squad really seemed to care very much towards the end there, and the fans will likely turn on owner Urbano Cairo with another showing like that.
New manager Marco Giampaolo is looking to resurrect his career after a disastrous start with AC Milan last year earned him the sack after just 6 points in his first 7 matches. He’ll likely bring his beloved 4-3-1-2 to Turin with him, although he’ll be without CM Daniele Baselli (knee) until December. With a pair of big, physical strikers in Andrea Belotti and Simone Zaza and the darting figures of Álex Berenguer and Simone Verdi, he’s got all the ingredients to recreate the success from his Sampdoria days, although he’ll need to fix a defense that conceded the 5th-most goals in the league last year.
Given Giampaolo’s desire to pass out from the back, pressuring the Granata defense may be a useful policy, especially with no natural rightback in the XI right now. We’re expecting a tridente with Belotti as the prima punta with Verde in support and Berenguer as the trequartista. Given il Gallo’s abilities, expect those latter two to drift wide and combine with the leftback and midfielders to generate crossing opportunities, although Verdi especially has the pace to get in behind. The midfield still features more destroyers than creators, so expect a typically rugged afternoon in that department.
How to watch
TV: You can try BeIn or Premier Sports 2, but you may have 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
Both of these teams will be very different from what they were last year. Torino has plenty of quality that the hapless Moreno never unleashed and Giampaolo should be able to get more from them. However, the shortened break means that backing the team with greater continuity seems wise, so we’ll give Fiorentina a narrow 2-0 win, with Nikola Milenković scoring off a set piece and Chiesa grabbing a late insurance goal. Honestly, though, this one is really tough to predict, so there aren’t many results that would shock us.