Following a classic collapse to lose at Sassuolo on Saturday, Fiorentina are back on the road again following a 48-hour “ritiro” to take on Hellas Verona in what would normally be a carnival atmosphere between two sets of supporters who enjoy their gemellaggio. In 75 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W36 D21 L18 edge, including a W4 D3 L3 mark in the past 10 meetings. The reverse fixture finished all even thanks to a pair of soft penalties.
The referee for this one is 34-year-old Alessandro Prontera of Bologna. This will be just his 5th ever Serie A game, with 2 coming earlier this year, but he’s got a reputation for being a bit trigger happy with the cards. Weirdly enough, half of his top flight experience involves Fiorentina, and they’ve won both of those games with minimal referee involvement, so he’s very much an unknown quantity here.
The match will be played on Tuesday, 20 April 2021, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi in Verona. The forecast calls for another lovely spring day, sunny but with some nice fluffy clouds in the sky as well, and no rain. You know, the sort of weather that makes it feel like the world is mocking your pain.
For the second year in a row, the Mastini have impressed the league despite an unheralded roster. They currently sit 9th in the table with 41 points and should finish with their highest tally in Serie A since 2014, although they have hit a very rough patch of late, losing 5 of their past 6 games (beating just Cagliari in that time). There’s no real chance of Europe for them but there’s also no chance of relegation, which means we’re looking at another smashing success for a team with the third-lowest wage bill in the top flight.
Manager Ivan Jurić will have to work without a pair of Fiorentina loanees in CB Federico Ceccherini (thigh) and CM Marco Benassi (calf), as well as CB Gianluca Magnani (flu), CM Miguel Veloso (neck), CM Ronaldo Vieira (thigh), and CF Nikola Kalinić (fatigue). Perhaps due to all the injuries, Jurić tried a 4-4-2 last time out against Sampdoria, but the 1-3 loss should restore his faith in the 3-4-2-1 we associate with him. AM Antonin Barak (7 goals, 2 assists) leads the club in scoring, with AM Mattia Zaccagni (5 goals, 7 assists) the main creative hub and wingbacks Federico Dimarco (4 goals, 3 assists), Darko Lazović (3 goals, 4 assists), and Marco Faraoni (2 goals, 6 assists) contributing quite a bit as well.
You’ll notice that the strikers aren’t listed there. Partly it’s because Kevin Lasagna and company have simply finished rather poorly all year, but the forwards’ job is more about holding up play, winning knockdowns, and dragging the opposition out of position to open space for the attackers and wingbacks. They don’t score much (39 on the season, 7th-fewest in Serie A) and create very few chances, but they tend to take the ones they make. Stylistically, they look to sit deep and play very direct, counterattacking brand of soccer, often looking for long switches to the wingbacks and mostly eschewing horizontal and backwards passing; the midfielders are almost entirely screeners rather than schemers. Between Barak’s shooting and Zaccagni’s guile, they can strike pretty much out of nowhere, which means Fiorentina’s defense will have to focus for the full 90 minutes. Yeah, I know.
It’s nearly May, so Fiorentina must be involved in a relegation battle again. This time, the Viola sit 16th with 30 points, leading Benevento on head-to-head and with a slender 5 point lead over Cagliari. They’ve earned 4 points from their last 5 games and haven’t kept a clean sheet since February amidst reports of dressing room tension and organizational infighting. It feels like a miracle that they aren’t in the drop zone, but with 7 matches left, the 5 point buffer seems awfully flimsy.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will have to cope without Nikola Milenković (suspended) and Borja Valero. Sofyan Amrabat could return to face his former side at Erick Pulgar’s expense, and Christian Kouamé might spell Franck Ribery, whose ancient legs probably need some rest, but it should be mostly the same XI that puked all over itself against Sassuolo. Hopefully, the guys want to redeem themselves to the fans and to Rocco Commisso, who’ll be in attendance. Otherwise, we could be in for another putrid display.
The Scaglieri defend deep and compact, happily allowing opponents to keep the ball in front of them. They allow the 3rd-most shots in Serie A, but also the lowest percentage on target, which indicates that they’re fantastic at tempting opponents into bad decisions. That’s the secret, as they excel at tempting other teams into corners and then dispossessing and them and speeding the other way. That said, over the past few weeks, they’ve looked much shakier at the back. Crosses from deep positions, simple flick-ons, and balls in behind have called the back line’s communication into question. A big, strong, and quick striker like Dušan Vlahović could tear them apart if he gets some support; the ball is in Iachini’s court.
How to watch
TV: Maybe BeIn but probably nothing. Check the full international television listings here to be sure.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Both of these teams threw away 1-0 halftime leads by conceding 3 in the second period this weekend, so it’s really a matter of who’s more fragile. Verona are slight favorites per the odds, but they’ve been so bad recently (especially in defense) that it’s hard to pick them as winners. That, of course, could equally apply to Fiorentina, so it’s mighty tough to call.
I’m going with Fiorentina to take a 1-2 victory because this team always manages to come together at the unlikeliest of moments. With two defenses that seem badly out of sorts, we could see a lot of chances, so the game could well come down to which outfit has the better striker. Since Vlahović is vastly superior to Lasagna, that would seem to hand Fiorentina the edge, but it’s probably going to be a game in which the winner capitalizes on mistakes rather than forges anything brilliant themselves.