Fresh off a fingernails-in-your-eyeballs loss at Udinese on Sunday, Fiorentina have no time to regroup as they return to the friendly confines of the Franchi to take on AS Roma. In 188 matches dating back to their first in 1931 (a 3-1 Viola win), the good guys are W57 D66 L65, including a mark of W2 D2 L6 in their past 10 Serie A matches (although that doesn’t count the hallucinatory 7-1 Coppa Italia win in 2019). The reverse fixture saw the Giallorossi easily win 2-0 over a Giuseppe Iachini-coached side.
The match will be played Wednesday, 3 March 2021, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a surprisingly warm day, almost painfully cloudless. Indeed, whoever’s attacking towards the Curva Ferrovia may have to deal with the setting sun in their eyes, particularly in the first half.
Dismal. Dire. Dip****s. You name it, Fiorentina are it. They’ve collected all of 4 points from their past 5 matches, failing to beat fellow bottom-half sides Udinese and Torino. With this one against the Lupi and then subsequent clashes against a desperate Parma, at Benevento, vs AC Milan, at Genoa, and vs Atalanta, you can see a world in which the Viola fail to add more than 2 points to their current paltry tally of 25. That could see their 7 point cushion over Cagliari and the final relegation spot evaporate with uncomfortable rapidity.
Manager Cesare Prandelli should have the entire squad at his disposal minus Giacomo Bonaventura (ankle) and Christian Kouamé (thigh), although we may seem some rotation after just two days of rest. Sofyan Amrabat should return to the XI and steady the midfield, while Igor might get a chance as well and either Martín Cáceres or Lorenzo Venuti should step in at right wingback. After flirting with a very strange approach in Udine, expect the Viola to return to their usual approach, with Amrabat bossing the midfield and Castrovilli darting in behind. It hasn’t exactly worked all year, but it should be a welcome return to previous mediocrity at the very least.
Relying on the ponderous and mistake-prone Federico Fazio and converted midfielder Cristante at the back means that Roma are a bit vulnerable, especially to pace and trickery; between that and the constant rotations in defense due to injuries, the Lupi have allowed 37 goals. Yes, that’s one more than the Viola. As we well know, though, Fiorentina don’t offer that much pace and trickery up top. Targeting Cristante in the air is probably a secondary option, although Mancini and Fazio offer the Italian-Canadian some extra protection. Working Franck Ribery and Gaetano Castrovilli through the half-spaces, particularly when the Roma centerbacks follow other players high up the pitch, should also be a point of emphasis.
After losing the hands-down-craziest Serie A game of the year to AC Milan at the weekend, the Giallorossi have tumbled into 5th place with 44 points, 2 behind Juventus (who have a game in hand) and Atalanta and just 1 ahead of Napoli and Lazio. They’ve only harvested 7 points from their past 5 league games (sounds great, no?), including a scoreless draw at 10-man Benevento, and have a tricky draw against Shakhtar Donetsk next week to draw their attention as well.
Manager Paulo Fonseca will likely be without CB Roger Ibañez (thigh) and CF Edin Džeko (“hip”), while CB Chris Smalling and CB Marash Kumbulla may not be fit either. It’ll be the usual 3-4-2-1 from the capital club, probably with old friend Jordan Veretout in central midfield and Bryan Cristante dropping into the center of defense with older friend Gianluca Mancini. Up front, Carles Pérez and/or Pedro could replace the dazzling Henrikh Mkhitaryan and/or Lorenzo Pellegrini, especially with two fixtures a week until the late-March international break.
Fonseca’s teams are quite fun to watch attack. They like to break quickly upon winning the ball, looking to use the supporting attackers to find space in the channels and play in the striker or pick out late runners into the box. Failing that, their fluidity in possession and constant off-ball movement, while not at Atalanta levels, makes them tough to track for defenders. They’re very fond of playing quickly through the middle, sucking the defense in, and then looking for switches out to the pacy wingbacks to run at isolated defenders or open space. While their lack of a physical presence in the box without Džeko has taken some of the edge off, their collection of nippy and technical little forwards can cause all sorts of problems.
How to watch
TV: Nope. You’re welcome to check the full international television listings if you want to, though.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
With a reeling and angry Roma looking to scrap their way back into the top four, the biggest challenge for Fiorentina will be matching the visitors’ intensity for 90 minutes. While fans may complain about the tactics at times, you can’t deny that Fonseca has produced a fluid and creative side that attacks from unexpected angles. Frankly, they’re too good for the Viola to expect a clean sheet.
That said, the Lupi play a very high line, and it’s not hard to imagine Vlahović giving Fazio a very rough time. With Amrabat adding an element of control to the engine room, it really becomes a matter of getting Dušan the ball and getting support around him. That pretty much makes Castrovilli the key player; if he can find space between the lines to turn and dribble at the Roma defense on the break, Fiorentina have a puncher’s chance of exploiting that high line and coming away with an improbable 2-1 victory. If that feels hopelessly optimistic, well, it is. That’s why I don’t write tips for betting sites.