Fiorentina emerge from the chaos of the international break and into the chaos of Serie A to take on struggling Venezia. In 42 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W19 D10 L13 record, including a 0-2 triumph back in 2004, which is the last time these two met; it’s easy to be excited about such a famous club returning to the top flight after nearly two decades away, so let’s just enjoy it.
The referee for this one is 32-year-old Luca Massimi of Termoli. This’ll be his first Serie A game of the year, and just his 7th ever. In his previous 6, he’s handed out 24 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 3 (!) penalties. He’s never handled a Fiorentina game before, so it’s time to open a new file and take some notes on him.
The match will be played on Monday, 18 October 2021, at 6:45PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo in Venice. The forecast calls for a really lovely autumn day: some scattered clouds and perhaps a bit of breeze, but it shouldn’t be too cold for the 500 traveling supporters.
Having achieved promotion via the playoff last year (with a big assist from Viola midfielder Youssef Maleh), the Arancioneroverdi (seriously) are back in Serie A for the first time in 17 years. Unfortunately for them and fans of stylish shirts everywhere, they’re sitting 18th with 5 points (all from their past 5 matches). The silver lining, though, is that they’ve probably played a bit better than the standings show, and will be confident about pushing for survival.
Manager Paolo Zanetti will be without GK Luca Lezzerini (thigh) and AM Lauri Ala-Myllymäki (knee), but that shouldn’t slow him down much. Although he’s shown a willingness to move to a 4-4-2 at times, he prefers a 4-3-3, so that’s what we’ll expect. While there’s no real danger man—nobody’s scored more than once—American fans will be keeping an eye on Gianluca Busio, who opened his account with a stoppage time equalizer at Cagliari last time out and looks astonishingly suited to Serie A for a 19-year-old fresh from MLS. Also, Sergio Romero (yeah, that one) is likely to make his debut between the sticks.
A lot of what Venezia does is look for long balls, given the pace of their attackers; they’re near the bottom in a number of possession statistics but love to pump the ball long, hoping to release a pacy attack in transition. If I’m being honest, it hasn’t worked brilliantly: they’re second-last in shots and last in touches in the opposing penalty area, and they don’t seem particularly good at carving open a set defense. If Fiorentina can restrict them in transition, they’ll have a good chance to render them harmless.
Despite a negative goal difference, Fiorentina sit 6th and could leapfrog Lazio with a win here, although the fact that they’ve already played 3 of the top 4 teams indicates that they could go on a run, with 3 of their next 4 against teams in or near the relegation zone. As long as they keep beating the teams they should beat (which they’ve done at every turn so far) and occasionally spring an upset (like against Atalanta), we could be looking at a return to Europe, although there’s a lot of season to go.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have GK Bartłomiej Drągowski (thigh) or CM Gaetano Castrovilli (ribs), while Nikola Milenković (ankle), Riccardo Saponara (thigh), and Nicolás González (thigh) are all question marks. As we’ve learned, trying to predict the mister’s lineups is an exercise in futility, but the odds are good that Lucas Torreira, Lucas Martínez Quarta, Álvaro Odriozola, and José Callejón will all be in the XI, as well as all the usual starters.
Since Venezia’s defense is, like Fiorentina’s, predicated on pressing like mad, this should be an interesting clash for the Viola: if they can keep the ball ticking along, they’re likely to find space and good matchups for the attackers. The Lagunari are also among the league leaders in fouls committed, so González, Dušan Vlahović, Riccardo Sottil—all experts at getting kicked—could end up being the deciding edge, although the hosts have proven sturdy in the air and in the tackle so far.
How to watch
TV: Sure doesn’t look like it, but check the full international television listings if you want to be certain.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
While the Lagunari are a tricky, hardworking outfit, there’s a reason that they’re something 2:1 underdogs: they just don’t have anything like the quality the Viola do. Fiorentina have also been quite good on the road, winning 3 on the trot away from the Artemio Franchi. That’s why I’m calling it a 2-0 to the good guys, with a Vlahović penalty and an Alfred Duncan blast supplying the margin in a match that starts off frantic before the hosts run out of steam.