Fresh off wiping the floor and wringing out a miserable Cagliari, the Viola head south to the capital on short rest to take on Lazio. In 159 previous meetings, the Viola are W52 D43 L64, including a W2 D2 L6 over their past 10 league meetings. This fixture last year resulted in a 2-1 loss that highlighted the Viola’s inability to mark the back post.
The referee for this one is 30-year-old Giovanni Ayroldi of Molfetta. In 3 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 15 yellow cards and 1 penalty; he’s only handled a dozen top flight matches but has demonstrated an itchy trigger finger with the reds and PKs, so maybe he’s turned over a new leaf. This will be his first date with Fiorentina.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 27 October 2021, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The forecast looks pretty good despite the drizzle today. It should be cool, partly cloudy, and not too humid. Really, what more can you ask out of a calcio Wednesday?
With 14 points from 9 games, it seems like Lazio has experienced a slight drop-off following the departure of long-time coach Simone Inzaghi. Over their past 5 Serie A games, they’ve garnered 7 points but have looked very uneven doing so: they’ve beaten AS Roma and Inter Milan but lost to Bologna and, more concerning, Hellas Verona last time out, shipping 4 goals to Giovanni Simeone of all people, prompting the Aquile to go into a brief ritiro over the past couple of days.
Manager Maurizio Sarri will have his full squad to choose from with Mattia Zaccagni returning from injury. The real question in the lineup is if he’ll use Luis Alberto, who’s gone from untouchable under Inzaghi to rotational under Sarri. Toma Bašić and Danilo Cataldi are likely to start in midfield, but the rest of the XI should be the regular starters. The dangerman is, as ever, Ciro Immobile, whose 8 goals lead the league.
While Lazio are still adjusting to Sarri’s famously demanding system, we know more or less what to expect from squads under his direction: quick vertical combinations that overload opposing defenses with their whirling rotations. They’re still getting the hang of it, as evidenced by their relative paucity of shots, but they’re quite good at keeping the ball moving quickly as Serie A’s leading passers. They’re good from set pieces but don’t like shooting from distance, so the key to stopping them is maintaining a compact defensive shape and not getting dragged out of position.
With 6 points from their past 5 matches, the Viola seem to be falling off the pace a bit. With games against Lazio, Juventus, and AC Milan in their next 4, it’s reasonable to expect them to fall off the pace even more; they’ll need to grab any points they can over this stretch to avoid digging themselves into a hole too deep to emerge from if they’re serious about competing for the European places.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have LW Nicolás González (coronavirus), GK Bartłomiej Drągowski (hamstring), or DM Erick Pulgar (knee). The question is who replaces Nico on the wing: Riccardo Saponara has likely earned a starting spot after his destruction of Cagliari, so this decision could pit José Callejón’s reliability (?) against Riccardo Sottil’s explosiveness. Gaetano Castrovilli might start in midfield but will likely come off the bench as he works his way back to fitness. We’ll likely see rotation all over the pitch, though, because Italiano loves keeping us guessing.
Lazio’s defense has been really good so far. They don’t foul much (although they have given up a league-leading 3 penalties) despite pressing very high up the pitch and disrupting opponents effectively. The fullbacks are probably the weakest link on the back foot, so this could call for Sottil to try and get them in trouble, but don’t expect too many adjustments in attack as Fiorentina will likely try to pass the Biancocelesti off the pitch just as they do with every other opponent.
How to watch
TV: BeIn or BT Sport might have it, but you’re probably going to have to stream this one. Check the full international television listings to be sure.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The hosts are roughly 2:1 favorites according to most of the betting houses, which makes sense given their pedigree and place in the table. However, they might be a bit fragile right now given their recent ritiro and the shelling by Simeone that precipitated it; after all, this is the 8th-worst defense in the division, although the absence of González should make things much, much easier on them.
With two teams that are going to try to keep the ball pinging around and aren’t afraid to commit numbers forward, this feels like a high scoring game. That’s why I’m calling it a 2-2: penalties from Dušan Vlahović and Immobile should each other out, while a Milinković-Savić and Giacomo Bonaventura each add one from range. It should be a really entertaining, up-and-down game with a lot of fun moves, at least, so let’s hope that the Viola can hang on and get something from it.