After proving last week they can win ugly against stubborn opposition, Fiorentina get an entirely different challenge as they welcome capolista Napoli to the Franchi. In 165 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W57 D49 L59 mark that plummets to W2 D4 L4 over the past 10, including a 0-2 defeat in this fixture last year.
The referee for this one is 34-year-old Simone Sozza of Seregno. He’s only ever reffed 10 Serie A games this year (feels like the Viola have gotten a lot of newbies this year), handing out 32 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and 2 penalties in those clashes. He’s never handled a Fiorentina game, so slakas will have to open a new file on him.
The match will be played on Sunday, 3 October 2021, at 4:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast warns of possible showers, although it should stay quite warm. Even so, those grey clouds should bring out all the puffy jackets you’d expect to see when it’s 28 C/78 F in Tuscany.
It’s awfully weird to see Fiorentina in the top five going into matchweek 7, but here we are. The All-or-Nothing Viola have chalked up 4 wins and 2 losses with a goal difference of 0 (!) but they’ve at least been appointment television: before last week’s win at Udinese, every Fiorentina game had involved at least 3 goals, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case in this one.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano still won’t have Gaetano Castrovilli or Lorenzo Venuti (at least from the start) but will welcome the return of Nicolás González from suspension for applauding. It’ll be, as always, the 4-3-3. There’ve been rumors that Matija Nastasić may return to the defense, while Lucas Torreira’s got the inside edge over Erick Pulgar in the holding role. José Callejón will likely draw the start against his former employers to round out the tridente.
Since Napoli like to attack, they should leave some space for Fiorentina to motor into. Italiano will try to isolate González and Dušan Vlahović against single defenders, banking on their individual quality to create opportunities following turnovers. Failing that, Giacomo Bonaventura will be tasked with breaking down Partenopei defense. And of course, the team’s best attacker may be its ferocious pressing, so don’t be surprised to see some quick breaks.
After nearly a decade of always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride, Napoli sure look like breaking that streak. They’ve won 6 from 6, scoring 16 goals (2nd in the league) and conceding just 2 (1st). While they’ve rolled through Serie A—last time out, they never took it out of third to roll past Cagliari—it took some late heroics to snatch a draw at Leicester City in the Europa League, and they lost at home to Spartak Moscow on Thursday, so exhaustion could be a factor.
Manager Luciano Spalletti will use his beloved 4-2-3-1, although he may rotate a bit to keep things fresh on short rest. The danger men are striker Victor Osimhen (4 goals) and winger Lorenzo Insigne (2 goals, 2 assists), although there’s quality all over this attack. There is, in fact, quality all over the pitch, although the midfield can look a bit lightweight at times.
Napoli can attack in a variety of ways. Osimhen is speedy as they come and can latch onto balls in behind, but he’s also got the technique to beat a defender either face up or with his back to goal. Insigne’s trademark dart inside is balanced by Chucky Lozano on the opposite wing. While the Partenopei have the pace and dribbling to menace anyone on the break, they’ve also got the creative passing to open up a deep block, and, as a bonus, aren’t afraid to squeeze of shots from distance, which means there’s no respite for the defense at any moment.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Napoli are almost 2:1 favorites for a reason, and that reason is that they’ve looked miles better than everyone else in Serie A this year. They don’t have any real weaknesses, have beaten the doors off every Italian team they’ve faced, and generally look like a lot of fun.
The run has to end some time, though, and coming off a grueling Europa League game is a better time than most. Add into that that Spalletti’s teams always have a meltdown or three in them and putting money on a high-scoring draw feels just about right, especially if the native Tuscan decides to take it easy on Fiorentina. I’ll go for a 2-2, with goals from Vlahović and Callejón (can’t beat that narrative) for the good guys and Osimhen and Zieliński for the other guys. But a 0-4 is just as much in play; it’s really all about whether Italiano can strike the right balance between pressing and sitting deep.