The Derby dell’Appennino wasn’t much fun, but Fiorentina will hope for something a little better in their second trip to the capital this season, this time to face Lazio. In their 157 previous meetings (the first was in 1928’s Divisione Nazionale), the Viola hold a W51 D43 L63 mark, including a miserable W2 D2 L6 over their past 10 league meetings. This fixture last year resulted in a 2-1 loss due to a shameful dive from Felipe Caicedo that somehow wound up as a penalty.
The referee for this one is 35-year-old Rosario Abisso of Palermo. In 6 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 30 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 4 penalties. In the 8 Viola games he’s handled, the good guys have a W6 D1 L1 record. He’s already worked two Fiorentina games this year: the 1-0 opening win over Torino and the 0-2 slump at AC Milan. Frankly, he may be the worst ref in Serie A; don’t be surprised if there’s at least one inexplicable decision somewhere along the way.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 6 January 2021, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The forecast calls for rain, rain, and more rain. The pitch is going to be pretty well soaked after days of steady precipitation, so there could be some slips and trips. None are bigger, though, than the league office scheduling a game to start during working hours on a weekday. Even without fans in the stands, that feels like it misses the point of the game entirely.
While many pundits predicted Lazio to take a dip this year, 9th place with 22 points has a lot of supporters feeling antsy, especially with just 5 points from their past 5 matches, including a 1-1 at lowly Genoa last time out. They have bulled their way to 2nd in their Champions League group and will advance there, but it seems that the quiet transfer market this past summer has left the squad feeling a bit stale and understaffed.
Manager Simone Inzaghi will have to cope without CF Joauquín Correa (ankle), LM Senad Lulić (ankle), LM Mohamed Fares (hip), and DM Lucas Leiva (suspension), but should have CM Marco Parolo back from injury. You know what to expect from Inzaghi’s Lazio: Luis Alberto pulling the strings, Sergej Milinković-Savić bullying people in the middle, and Ciro Immobile rounding off chances. Keep an eye on CF Felipe Caicedo too, as he’s been heavily linked with a move to Florence this January.
Lazio have scored 23 goals and Immobile has 10 of them, so sticking tight to him is paramount to stopping the Aquile. Luis Alberto’s been having a down year but remains a tremendous creative force who can spark to life at any moment, so Pulgar (or whoever’s playing the holding role) will need to track him closely. Finally, the Biraghi-Manuel Lazzari matchup could define this game; if CB3 can slow his opposite number down without neutering his own attacking output, Fiorentina have a good chance.
The good vibes from that 0-3 beatdown of Juventus were always bound to dissipate, leaving Fiorentina in 14th place in the table on 15 points and yet to win back to back games in Serie A this year, although at least they’ve kept consecutive clean sheets for the first time this year and haven’t lost in 4 straight, leading to 6 points from their past 5 games.
Manager Cesare Prandelli will welcome back LM Cristiano Biraghi, although CF Patrick Cutrone (back) will probably sit this one out. While you might hope to see some squad rotation after just 3 days off, it’s likely that we’ll see a pretty similar lineup despite some potentially creaky legs. Lorenzo Venuti and Erick Pulgar are decent bets to step in, but the rest of the XI isn’t likely to change.
Lazio have had a lot of trouble in defense this year (their 24 goals conceded is worse than Fiorentina). They’ve been particularly bad from set pieces (5 conceded from not that many opportunities) and lead the league in yellow cards, so that’ll likely be an avenue of attack for the visitors. Especially without Leiva sweeping up in front of defense, there may be room for the Viola to control the ball more than you’d expect; if the Viola can find space between the lines and find runners, they’ve got a better chance to cause problems than you might expect.
How to watch
TV: Nah, but check the full international television listings here if you want confirmation of the negative.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina proved a tough nut to crack last year for Lazio and have shown a surprising ability to hang with bigger teams this year, so the betting lines feel a bit skewed towards the capital club. I’ll call for a 1-1 draw, with Germán Pezzella striking from a set piece and Ciro Immobile notching a penalty in a game that’s full of ugly play due to the wet field. A sending off also feels likely, both because of Lazio’s disciplinary record and because it’s Abisso. Of course, if the Immobile-Luis Alberto axis ignites, this could turn very ugly very fast, so Fiorentina need to stay tight at the back to avoid throwing numbers forward and leaving too much space for the hosts to attack into.