Fresh off a 3-1 stomping of Sampdoria, Fiorentina hit the road and cross the mountains north to Bologna for the Derby dell’Appennino. In 150 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W57 D50 L43, although they haven’t lost to the Oscar Meyers since 2013; that means a pair of streaks will clash in this one, as Fiorentina have lost 4 straight on the road.
The referee for this one is 42-year-old Massimiliano Irrati of Pistoia. In 4 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 22 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 2 penalties. In 10 games under his eye, Fiorentina are W2 D3 L5, although last we saw him was a hilarious 5-1 romp over Sampdoria a couple years ago.
The match will be played on Sunday, 5 December 2021, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna. The forecast calls for a chilly gray day, likely with rain both before and after kickoff, but maybe not during the game itself. You know, just a typical December in Reggio-Emilia.
Following their impressive win over AS Roma in the midweek, the Felsinei are flying high. Even on 24 points with Fiorentina and Juventus, they’ve taken 12 points from their past 5 matches, only losing against Venezia. Aside from reeling Roma, though, those wins have all come against bottom-half sides, so there’s some feeling that this may be a paper tiger rather than a contender for the European places.
Manager Siniša Mihajlović will lack RB Ibrahima Mbaye, CM Jerdy Schouten, and CF Marko Arnautović. His team’s surge up the standings coincides with his move to a back three and he’s likely to stick with that approach. The question is how the tridente will look. Musa Barrow will likely play as the striker with either Riccardo Orsolini, Nicola Sansone, or maybe both behind him, but Emmanuele Vignato (who assisted all 3 Rodrigo Palacio goals last year) or the hulking Federico Santander could also get the nod.
With an attack featuring lots of quick, clever dribblers, Bologna are best suited to attack rather directly, looking to isolate their stars in space and trust them to win those battlers, given that it’s worked pretty well so far. They’ll definitely attack the space Fiorentina’s high line will leave behind them, especially behind the fullbacks. With Roberto Soriano more than capable of picking the pass to spring the attack, the Viola will need to keep him from threading those balls through, although the Felsinei are good enough on the ball that it may be wise to ease off the pressing a tad at times and instead focus on maintaining the defensive shape.
We’re nearly halfway through the year and Fiorentina have yet to draw. Instead, they’ve been alternating wins and losses since mid-October. While that sort of consistency is statistically impressive as it is unlikely, the supporters are starting to wonder about the lack of consistency. However, it’s hard to argue with the table, where Fiorentina are in 6th place, or with the product itself, as the team’s playing some scintillating stuff, albeit only at home. But snagging a win on the road would settle some anxiety that’s beginning to flutter.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano still won’t have Bartłomiej Drągowski, while Gaetano Castrovilli and Erick Pulgar are out as well. Nico González and Riccardo Saponara will start on the wings, while Youssef Maleh could get the nod in central midfield. At the back, the only question is whether Álvaro Odriozola or Lorenzo Venuti will play at rightback.
The obvious area to attack is the diminutive Gary Medel in the heart of defense, so expect to see some lofted balls to Dušan Vlahović in the buildup in hopes that his holdup play can spring González; the Chilean will also be targeted at set pieces. Otherwise, the plan will likely be to use the numerical advantage in midfield to create overloads out wide, with Giacomo Bonaventura and Maleh moving to the wings to create 1-v-1s for González and Saponara.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This one’s a real toss-up; even the betting houses are pretty unsure, generally guessing that we’re going to see a draw (clearly they don’t follow Fiorentina). A lower scoring game does seem likely, given the Viola’s struggles on the road and Bologna’s willingness to prevent a track meet from breaking out, so taking the under on 2.5 goals seems wise.
I’m calling it a 0-2 for the visitors. I think that Vlahović-Medel matchup is going to be massively problematic for the hosts, and I also don’t see them having a good answer for González. While their attack is very dangerous, Barrow’s finishing is very suspect and the defense is due for a mistake-free game. For the scorers, let’s go with a Nikola Milenković header and a Maleh blast from distance, just because we can.