Fiorentina, like pretty much everyone on the planet, will hope for a reversal of fortune in 2021. They’ll open the new year by welcoming Bologna to Florence for the Derby dell’Appennino. In 148 previous editions of this rivalry (dating back to 1928’s Divisione Nazionale), the Viola hold a W57 D48 L47 record. They haven’t lost to the Felsinei since 2012 and haven’t lost to them at home since 2010, so that’ll be fun to worry about.
The referee for this one is 45 year old Daniele Orsato of Vincenza. In 5 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 27 yellow cards and 2 straight reds. He’s historically been quick to the book but slow to hand out red cards or penalties, which can lead to disjointed, low-scoring games at times. Under his watch, the Viola are W9 D12 L16. Last we saw him was Giuseppe Iachini’s penultimate match in charge, a listless 2-0 defeat at AS Roma, which saw Lucas Martínez Quarta rightly sent off.
The match will be played on Sunday, 3 January 2021, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Florence. It’ll be cloudy and shouldn’t be too cold, there’ll likely be some rain. It’s been a gray and drizzly week, in fact, so the pitch could be pretty slick.
The good guys ended a disastrous 2020 on a positive note, taking 5 points from their final 3 matches, including an emphatic 0-3 triumph at Juventus. That was enough to boost them to 14th place with 14 points, which feels like a pretty sobering reminder of how bad things were to start the season and of how fragile this newfound success is.
Manager Cesare Prandelli will have to work without LM Cristiano Biraghi (suspension) but otherwise has the full squad available. Lorenzo Venuti should replace Martín Cáceres and Antonio Barreca will fill in for Biraghi, but the rest of the XI is firmly established with the exception of a midfield spot, where any of Borja Valero, Giacomo Bonaventura, or Erick Pulgar could slot in, depending on whether Prandelli wants his charges to control the game, get more runners into the box from deep, or offer extra bit in the middle.
Bologna have, for the second straight year, looked a bit iffy on the back foot. With the diminutive Gary Medel in central defense, expect Fiorentina to lob balls into the box for the much taller Dušan Vlahović to utilize his newfound aerial prowess. Otherwise, Franck Ribery should be able to find space between the lines from which to pull the strings, which means getting runners forward around him will be critical as well, especially since Bologna have a tendency to switch off and allow runners in behind.
Sitting one spot and one point ahead of the Viola, it’s been a reasonably successful season thus far for the Emilia-Romagna outfit, although they’ve taken just 3 points from their past 5 matches. That includes a thrilling 2-2 draw against Atalanta last time out, though, which saw the Felsinei make up two goals in the last 20 minutes. In fact, Bologna have made a habit of late comebacks recently, scoring 5 goals after the 70th minute in their last 3 outings, which have all been draws.
Manager Siniša Mihajlović will have to cope without GK Łukasz Skorupski (finger), RB Ibrahima Mbaye (thigh), and Federico Santander (knee), while RB Lorenzo de Silvestri (thigh) and LW Nicola Sansone (hip) could miss out as well, although LB Aaron Hickey and RW Andreas Skov Olsen should be back. No matter what, though Miha will use his beloved 4-2-3-1, prioritizing a very dangerous young attack that’s full of pace and technique.
Perhaps because the defense has looked so shaky, Bologna have been much better going forward this year, which feels very unMihajlović of them. With Riccardo Orsolini and Musa Barrow out wide, they focus on either getting in behind (2nd in the league in offsides) or isolating their wingers against opponents. While the midfielders, especially Roberto Soriano, have the vision and patience to carve a defense open, the focus is on quick transitions, as you’d expect from Siniša.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Coming out of a lengthy break into slick conditions under Orsato’s watch, this feels like it’ll be a very stop-start kind of game. Fiorentina will likely control possession for the most part with Bologna mostly sitting back but occasionally springing a high press as well. With a lot of bodies in the middle, most of the attacks should come from the wide positions, which favors the visitors, who have a lot of talent on the wings.
That said, Fiorentina have the momentum and, on paper, the better squad; with Prandelli starting to get them together, I’m calling for a Viola win. Gaetano Castrovilli and Dušan Vlahović seem like the likeliest scorers, striking after a bad turnover at the back and on the counter, respectively. That said, this dynamic Bologna attack is very talented; given Drągowski’s recent struggles with long shots and a passel of Felsinei attackers who can really strike a ball, let’s call it a 2-1 for the good guys with Barrow reducing the arrears.