After nearly going the entire first half of the season without a draw before a heartpumping 2-2 against Sassuolo on Sunday, Fiorentina closes out 2022 on the road at Hellas Verona. In 76 previous meetings, the Viola are W37 D22 L17, including a W4 D3 L3 over their past 10 meetings. They pulled out a scruffy 1-2 win in this fixture last year featuring a Martín Cáceres volley. Weird game.
The referee for this one is 44-year-old Daniele Doveri of Rome. In 6 Serie A games this year, he’s issued 20 yellow cards and 5 penalties; he’s got a habit of letting things go in the center of the park but getting involved in the penalty box, although he’s been one of the better refs in Italy for the past year or two. In 23 previous matches under his watch, the Viola are W13 D2 L8. Last we saw him was that wild 1-1 draw against Genoa last year, featuring two very late goals and an annulled one.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 22 December 2022, at 5:30 PM GMT/12:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi in Verona. The forecast calls for an overcast day, and although the sun may poke its head out at times, it won’t be enough to warm things up; by the end of the game, temperatures could drop to near freezing.
Despite moving on from manager Ivan Jurić in the summer, Hellas Verona look likely to remain comfortably mid-table again. They’re currently in 13th place on 23 points, largely on the strength of a surprisingly potent attack (33 goals, good for 7th in Serie A), but they’ve rather stumbled of late, collecting just 4 points in their past 5 games—including a scoreless draw against woeful Cagliari—and just got knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Empoli, indicating a certain fragility.
Manager Igor Tudor will cope with a rash of absences, especially at the back: CB Federico Ceccherini CB Pavel Davidowicz, CB Koray Günter, CB Giangiacomo Magnani, LB Gianluca Frabotta, and AM Antonin Barak are all out, while CF Nikola Kalinić is likely to miss this one as well. There’s even a chance that Miguel Veloso will drop into the back line. It’ll be the usual 3-4-2-1 from the Mastini with danger man Giovanni Simeone leading the line; the ex-Viola striker has 12 goals (from 4.6 xG, which is wild, and all from open play) and 2 assists this year, and will relish a clash against his former employer.
Tudor hasn’t shaken up too much of his predecessor’s approach, although Verona are more possession oriented than they were under Jurić. They’re good at getting the ball forward with direct passes and are happy to keep it at the back, although they’ve shown a certain looseness at times that gets them in trouble. With no real aerial presence up front, they look to work the wide areas and the channels, trying to get their very nippy attackers in behind, whether that’s to meet through balls or low crosses into the corridor of uncertainty.
After sharing a point for the first time this year last time out, Fiorentina will hope to get a win to finish 2022 in the European places. Their 31 points are good for 6th, although they’re even with AS Roma and Juventus and need a win here to make sure they keep up. They’re in scintillating form, having taken 10 points from their past 5 outings, and will hope to keep that momentum rolling.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have GK Bartłomiej Drągowski, LB Cristiano Biraghi, or DM Sofyan Amrabat. Lorenzo Venuti should get the nod at rightback with Aleksa Terzić on the other side. In midfield, Lucas Torreira should start, although Erick Pulgar made the roster and could feature as well. Alfred Duncan, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Gaetano Castrovilli will compete for the other two spots. Nicolás González and Riccardo Saponara ought to start on the wings, although Riccardo Sottil could nudge the latter out of the way.
Given the state of Verona’s defense, expect the Viola to hammer balls into Dušan Vlahović and see if he can turn an opponent. Otherwise, it’ll be the usual approach, although don’t be surprised to see the hosts fouling a lot: they’ve committed the second most in the league this year. Given their pace up front and penchant for mistakes in possession, high pressure and the subsequent short field may be the best form of attack.
How to watch
TV: Not likely, but check the full international television listings if you’re an optimist.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This looks like it could be a pretty high-scoring affair, given that both teams are among the league leaders in goals, especially as the Viola have struck 2 or more in 4 straight. Both teams’ strengths—Fiorentina’s explosive attackers against a makeshift Verona defense and Verona’s quick forwards against Fiorentina’s high defensive line—further indicate a track meet. And with the gemellaggio these two fans have, a raucously friendly atmosphere should only encourage both sides to push for goals.
I’ll say that the visitors take this 1-3 on the strength of a Vlahović penalty, a Nico strike, and a Duncan blast from distance, with el Cholito naturally bagging one of his own. The overall tenor of the game will likely be quick, as both teams want to win the ball and attack directly, although we could see a lot of fouls in this one as Doveri gets a workout. That said, the Gialloblu have more than enough quality to defend the Bentegodi, so we’re likely in for a tough but entertaining finish to 2021.