Fiorentina have had a week to shake off the fug from a loss against Inter Milan and now hit the road to take on a tricky Sampdoria side. In 134 competitive meetings dating back to 1946, the Viola hold a W48 D49 L37 edge, including a W3 D4 L3 record in their last 10 league meetings. The Blucerchiati came away with a 1-2 win in the reverse fixture that they probably didn’t deserve, so it’d be nice to return the favor at their house.
The referee for this one is 39-year-old Fabio Maresca of Naples. In 7 Serie A appearances this year, he’s handed out 47 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 1 penalty. He’s generally quick to the pocket for a first card but doesn’t like to give spot kicks or send players off. In 4 games under his watch, Fiorentina hold a W1 D2 L1 record. Weirdly enough, the last time we saw him was at Sampdoria in 2018: a 1-1 draw which the Viola really should have won.
The match will be played on Sunday, 14 February 2021, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. The forecast calls for lovely, clear winter day. There should be a fairly brisk wind but nothing too bad. With no clouds, much less rain, keep an eye out for players struggling to track high balls, especially in the second half as the sun sinks over the Tribuna Ovest.
Samp have cooled off after a hot start and have settled into 10th place with 27. They’re not your typical “beat the bad teams and lose to the good ones” side, though, as they’ve beaten the likes of Lazio and Inter Milan so far while losing to Cagliari and Spezia. They’ve collected 7 points from their past 5 matches, but always seem capable of an impressive rally or a complete collapse on any given day.
Manager Claudio Ranieri has his full squad available, although CF Manolo Gabbiadini (hernia) might not be quite recovered. The Tinkerman has used a back four and a front two all year, but the midfield vacillates between a diamond and a flat four. Antonio Candreva sometimes tucks in before shuttling into the wide areas while Morton Thorsby, nominally on the left, tucks in almost as a 10 to allow Fabio Augello to motor forward.
This is a pretty basic side. They average the second-lowest possession rate in Serie A and hit long passes at the third-highest rate. They score well from set pieces and like to cross the ball from open play. They’re the type of team that won’t surprise you, but they’re well-drilled enough to still create some problems, especially with a very fluid midfield and some trickery down the wings. They’ll likely try to build down the right, trying to isolate Candreva against Cristiano Biraghi, but their most common avenue forward will probably be thumps upfield to the strikers, who’ll try to combine in winning second balls and attacking a discombobulated defense.
7 points from the past 5 games isn’t a terrible return, but the beatdown at Napoli’s hands and a meltdown against Torino really give you the sense that things could fall apart at any moment. Adding to the pressure is that they’re back down to 15th in the standings with 22 points, albeit 7 ahead of Cagliari and the final relegation spot. Still, with the second-worst goalscoring record in the division, you can see why pretty much every Viola supporter has chewed their fingernails down to the quick.
Manager Cesare Prandelli will have CF Franck Ribery, CM Gaetano Castrovilli, and CB Nikola Milenković (who had his suspension following a “headbutt” on Andrea Belotti reduced) available, although RB Martín Cáceres (back) remains likely to miss out and CM Sofyan Amrabat is suspended. It’s a toss-up as to whether Borja Valero or Erick Pulgar will start in midfield, while Lorenzo Venuti should deputize at wingback again over Kévin Malcuit. Don’t expect any other surprises in the usual 3-5-2.
We all know what to expect from the Viola at this point and this one looks to be business as usual. Samp feature a tall team, especially at the back, so crossing probably isn’t a great option with Dušan Vlahović the only target in the box. Trying to play through the middle, especially in the left half-space, feels like the best way forward; Ribery and Castrovilli will focus on finding space between the lines and dragging the Blucerchiati midfield out of position The real fear is the link between defense and attack, where Amrabat’s absence will be strongly felt; that could push Castrovilli and Ribery way too deep to pick up possession and let the Sampdoria defense get fully set.
How to watch
TV: Nope, sadly. Check the full international television listings here, but it’s a nope.
Online: Here is your source of safe, legal, and reliable streams. If you live in the US, ESPN+ has it. Sign up through this link and VN will get a little cash. Full disclosure: Vox Media has affiliate partnerships, but those partnerships don’t affect editorial content.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
It’s tough to predict either of these teams, as both are pretty uneven and Fiorentina are missing a couple of starters. That said, this also feels like the kind of game which the Viola come out firing on, having lost a few in a row, to give us a bit more hope that they can snatch away down the road. You know, the usual.
That’s why I’m calling it a 1-2 win for the visitors. My money’s on Sampdoria going ahead in the first half through old man Quags, but with the good guys fighting back well after the break and scoring through a Dušan Vlahović penalty and a scrambled finish from Castrovilli at the death. Expect a bunch of cards, a bunch of scruffy play, and maybe one or two really nice moments. I would really like this stuff to happen.