After a too-tense win over last-place Crotone, Fiorentina hit the road for the second half of the season to take on Torino. In 157 previous meetings (dating back to 1931’s Serie A), the Viola hold a W53 D53 L51 edge, including a W5 D3 L2 mark over their past 10 league meetings. In the reverse fixture, the good guys took home a 1-0 victory that doesn’t come close to describing how much better they were.
The referee for this one is 39 year old Marco Di Bello of Brindisi. In 10 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 45 yellow cards, 1 red card, and an astounding 7 penalties; he’s always been quick to point to the spot, but that’s a wild number. In 7 previous matches under his direction, Fiorentina are W4 D2 L1. Most recently, he officiated the 4-0 blowout of Bologna last year, in which he uncharacteristically waved off a pretty clear penalty late on that Christian Kouamé won.
The match will be played on Friday, 29 January 2021, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin. The forecast calls for about as nice a winter’s day as you could ask for: not too cold, some clouds, and no rain or wind. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
It’s been a pretty dispiriting season for Turin’s better half. Il Toro sits in 17th place with 14 points, even with Cagliari, and are only dodging the drop zone on goal difference. They’ve garnered 6 points from their past 5 matches, including a draw at home to Spezia after the Aquilotti went down to 10 men after 8 minutes. With just 2 wins on the season and a -14 goal difference, it’s safe to say that they’re pretty bad.
New Granata manager Davide Nicola will be without CB Nicolas Nkoulou (leg) and RB Mërgim Vojvoda (shoulder). As usual, the team is built around Andrea Belotti up front, who’s somehow compiled 9 goals and 5 assists despite the dumpster fire around him. Nicola, having managed a number of relegation battlers and promotion chasers, tends to set out a pretty defensive 3-5-2 around the star man, featuring a deep defense, a compact midfield, and a rugged outlook.
Torino are a fairly basic side these days. The Granata are at their best playing route one with Belotti and Simone Zaza (who scored a brace in his last outing), who are both big, strong, and good in the air. Expect a steady diet of thumps to that pair and expect them to go to ground as quickly as possible: Torino are quite good at set-pieces and Fiorentina are quite bad at defending them, so Nicola will have highlighted to his attackers to win free kicks.
Despite their undressing at the hands of Napoli two weeks ago, the Viola kept it together and ground out a win against the Squali last time out. That means they’ve gathered 7 points from their past 5 and have steadied themselves at 12th place on 21 points, which is still just a bit too close to the drop zone for anyone to like. Despite the recent exploits of a certain Very Large Young Adult Man, the attack is the problem: 20 goals is the 3rd-worst mark in the league.
Manager Cesare Prandelli has his full squad available and will likely field the usual 3-5-2. New signings Aleksandr Kokorin and Kévin Malcuit aren’t in the squad either, so we’ll wait for debuts from them, although Tòfol Montiel is in there. Expect the usual approach from the Viola: an effort to get runners forward for Franck Ribery to find, and failing that, a barrage of crosses from Cristiano Biraghi, who leads the crossing-est team in Serie A.
Prandelli stated in his press conference that, as both teams play similar system that will nullify each other, the focus has to be on individual duels. That places the onus even more firmly on Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli to beat a defender and make something happen rather than trying to get the entire team pinging the ball around quickly. That could lead to either an exciting back-and-forth matchup or a congested slog through the middle that’s decided by set pieces.
How to watch
TV: Nope. Check the full international TV listings if you want to, but nope.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams. If you live in the US, ESPN+ has it. Sign up through this link and VN will get a little cash. Full disclosure: Vox Media has affiliate partnerships, but those partnerships don’t affect editorial content.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
It’s really a battle of who could care less in some ways, but Fiorentina should have the edge. Nikola Milenković and Igor have the strength and athleticism to stick with Belotti and Zaza in the air and on the ground and should mostly negate the duo’s influence. At the other end, Dušan Vlahović has been in incredible form (6 goals in his last 8 appearances) and will be running at a miserably bad defense. The midfield trios are likely to cancel each other out, although Sofyan Amrabat vs Tomás Rincón should be a fun tussle.
We’ll call it a 2-0 win for the visitors, then, with Vlahović striking from the spot before a late goal from Christian Kouamé (who’s been linked to Torino in this window) seals the deal. We’d guess that it’s going to be a pretty grubby affair, frankly, with the numbers in midfield crowding out most of the creativity in that zone and neither team having much attacking impetus at wingback.