Fiorentina have had a full week to think about their atrocious showing at Napoli last week, and you’d have to think that a home fixture against last-place Crotone is the perfect get-right spot. These two have only played 4 matches against each other, dating back to 2016’s Serie A; the Viola hold a W2 D1 L1 record. The most recent clash was 3 years ago, a relegation, and a promotion ago, so it doesn’t really have any bearing on the upcoming festivities.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Marco Piccinini of Forlì. In 6 Serie A games this year, he’s issued 20 yellow cards and 2 penalties. He’s always been very slow to the pocket and has remained true to form this year. His only previous match with the Viola was last year’s 0-1 loss to Lecce that saw Vincenzo Montella turfed out and Giuseppe Iachini hired. Not to defend Cousin Vinnie too much, but the man with the whistle declined to check at least 3 reasonable penalty shouts in that one too.
The match will be played on Saturday, 23 January 2021, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Florence. The forecast calls for reasonably warm temperatures, but the real issue will be the rain: it will have been sheeting down rain for the previous 36 hours and could leave the pitch extremely slippery, which can lead to some weird outcomes, especially when combined with Piccinini’s hesitance to use his cards.
The utter meltdown on the Bay of Naples dropped Fiorentina back down to 14th place with 18 points, just 4 ahead of the drop zone, and a miserable -11 goal difference. That result really does feel like it sent all the positive momentum built up since the Juventus win right off a cliff, and the team will really need to work to wrench itself back onto the right track.
Manager Cesare Prandelli has his full squad to choose from this week. It seems like he’s moved his setup to a 3-4-2-1, so the only real question is whether Gaetano Castrovilli plays in central midfield or in the attacking band; if it’s the former, José Callejón or Giacomo Bonaventura will slide in next to Franck Ribery, with Erick Pulgar a possibility if Tanino plays farther forward.
Despite their place in the table, Crotone like to defend fairly proactively. The Viola should still control possession, but the Calabrians will harry them higher up than you might expect; if Ribery and Castrovilli can beat a defender, there should be space for them to exploit. Too, this defense is just very bad. There should be plenty of opportunity for Dušan Vlahović to find creases to motor into, so the midfield will need to look to get him the ball in behind. Those spaces often mean that the Pitagorici are chasing opposing forwards, leading to a rough disciplinary record (3 red cards), although Piccinini’s passivity means they’ll likely get away with some physical play in midfield as well.
It’s been a pretty miserable return to the top flight for the Squali. They’re in last place with 12 points from 18 games and but trounced fellow new boys Benevento to the tune of 4-1 last time out, so they’ll be feeling reasonably confident. They do, however, boast the worst defensive record in the division, having conceded a mind-boggling 41 goals (on pace for literally the worst Serie A defense ever), but they’ve scored 21 themselves. That’s 3 more than the Viola. Yes, it’s deeply embarrassing.
Manager Giovanni Stroppa is missing CB Luca Marrone (hip), CM Luca Cigarini (calf), CM Ahmed Benali (calf), and RM Salvatore Molina (arm). He’s as fond of the 3-5-2 as Beppe ever was, so the Pitagorici will line up that way. Keep an eye out for ex-Primavera star Jacopo Petriccione, who could well start at the base of midfield, but the real threat comes from strike duo Junior Messias and Simy, who each have 6 goals and 2 assists this year (and also have a wonderful couple of names). They’ve got a wonderful big man-little man partnership, with the nippy former running in behind the towering latter, although we’ve seen a few recent experiments with Messias as a 10 and Emmanuel Riviére introduced at striker in a 3-4-1-2.
As you might expect from their scoring rate, this isn’t your typically dour newly-promoted team. They’re quite proactive with the ball, generally trying to pass out from the back, and show a surprising willingness to dribble in midfield, which can often see them lose the ball in dangerous situations. However, they’re excellent at winning fouls and have the size and quality to make them count, having scored 7 from set pieces this year. They like to build through the middle rather than lumping crosses into the box (although the massive Simy means that a direct approach is always an option) and aren’t afraid to fire from distance.
How to watch
TV: Nope. Feel free to check the full international television listings if you don’t believe me, but the answer is nope.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
On paper, Fiorentina should blow this Crotone side out of the water; the hosts have a payroll that’s about 2.5 times the size of the visitors and a bunch of players who are theoretically miles ahead. However, the rainy conditions and Piccinini’s desire to avoid interfering means that this could degenerate into an absolute mess. More than anything, how this Viola side responds will show us exactly how much belief San Cesare has instilled in them; if they come out nervous and get bullied, it’s not impossible to see them folding up and losing. If, on the other hand, they emerge confident and shake off last week’s result, you can forecast better things ahead.
Anyways, this feels like a 2-1 win to me, although this Fiorentina team is more than capable of falling flat at any time and against anyone. A goal from Vlahović from a darting run in behind and a tip-toeing strike from Castrovilli feel about right, with a late set piece goal from Simy making the good guys sweat for the final whistle. The Viola should mostly keep the ball and control things, although expect them to sit back for periods and invite the Squali onto them in a game that’ll likely feature a very crowded midfield area and a lot of choppy play.