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Fiorentina vs Atalanta: Preview

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A date with la Dea is always tough but hits a fragile Viola side at a particularly vulnerable moment.

Bartlomiej Dragowski player of Fiorentina, during the match...
Pictured: someone who’s about to be very busy and very irritated.
Photo by Vincenzo Izzo/LightRocket via Getty Images

After a massively frustrating but ultimately useful draw at Genoa last week, Fiorentina return to Tuscany to take on Atalanta. In 133 previous meetings, the Viola are W58 D43 L32 (those 58 wins in competitive matches are more than they have against any other club), although that plummets to W2 D5 L3 over their past 10 league meetings, including a 3-0 triumph in the reverse fixture that would have been much worse if not for some Bartłomiej Drągowski heroics.

The referee for this one is 36-year-old Juan Luca Sacchi of Macerata. In 9 Serie A appearances this year, he’s handed out 43 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 2 penalties. This will be just his 18th match in the top flight and, as he’s never reffed a Fiorentina match, we don’t know too much about him; slakas, get that notebook ready.

The match will be played on Sunday, 11 April 2021, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Florence. It’s going to be reasonably warm and there shouldn’t be much wind, but given that it will have been raining for a few days, the pitch will likely be very slick, which could play into the hosts’ favor.

Fiorentina

14th place with 30 points (and leading Benevento on goal difference) feels about right for how bad Fiorentina has been this season, especially since the 5 points they’ve harvested from their past 5 matches keep them nicely on their point-per-game pace. An 8-point lead on Cagliari for the final relegation spot feels far too large for the Isolani to surmount, but there’s just enough danger in there to feel like this is more than playing out the string, at least for the next few weeks.

Manager Giuseppe Iachini will have to work without the suspended duo of Erick Pulgar and Franck Ribery. Giacomo Bonaventura should replace the former, but finding a partner for Dušan Vlahović up front has been the real issue. Christian Kouamé, José Callejón, and Valentin Eysseric are the candidates, with the Ivorian having the inside track.

The plus side is that absences won’t really change what Iachini does. He’ll send out his usual 5-3-2 and hope to hit on the counter or via a set piece. Against an Atalanta side that never stops attacking, that’s probably as sound a strategy as any; it worked in last year’s Coppa Italia win over the Bergamaschi and failed in the league. Given la Dea’s penchant for sending defenders forward and the weather, there’s even a chance that the Viola could sporadically threaten on the counter, although it’s the other side of the game that’s likely going to be a bigger problem.

Atalanta

Sitting in 4th place with 58 points and just 2 behind 2nd-place AC Milan, it feels like a pretty standard season from Serie A’s biggest outlier: la Dea lead the league in goals and continue to produce an outrageously entertaining style that works, considering they’ve won 8 straight league matches. With just a 2-point lead over Napoli for that final Champions League spot, though, there’s no danger of complacency from this outfit, especially since shakeups in the dressing room and the sale of the talismanic Papu Gómez have ensured that this group can’t coast.

Manager Gian Piero Gasperini will be without RM Hans Hateboer (ankle) and AM Matteo Pessina (coronavirus), while CF Luis Muriel (back) looks a bit iffy as well. This being Atalanta, though, the formation and tactics seem as predictable as Fiorentina’s: 3-4-1-2 with players constantly surging forward from unlikely spots, quickly interchanging passes and finding holes in the defense to pry open. The wrinkle, of course, is that Gasp lined up in a 4-2-3-1 last week against Udinese before closing the game out in the usual shape.

The slippery pitch could force them into more errors than usual and stymie that legendary attack, but there’s so much talent in the team that it’s still almost hilariously capable of stacking up 5 goals in any game. Iachini will keep his team deep, compact, and narrow (as always). He’ll worry that Atalanta’s shooting from distance—Josip Iličić, Ruslan Malinovskiy, and Aleksey Miranchuk can hit them—will force his side to close down rather than maintaining their shape. The secondary concern is the Atalanta wingbacks, who attack the back post superbly to offer an extra option at crosses. And, of course, Duván Zapata can just power his way through at any given moment, to say nothing of Muriel’s absurd goalscoring record off the bench.

Possible lineups

Venuti or Cáceres, Kouamé or Callejón; Djimsiti or Palomino, Iličić or Lammers
Made using Share My Tactics

How to watch

TV: RAI looks like your best bet, unless you’re in the US where it’ll be on ABC (yes, that’s both correct and surreal). Check the full international television listings to make sure.

Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams. If you’re in the US, ESPN+ is showing it; sign up using this link if you don’t have an account yet and Viola Nation will get a little bit of cash. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

In some ways, this sets up well for Fiorentina. Ribery’s absence means the team will play quickly and vertically rather than slowing things down for the Frenchman to roll the ball under his foot, which suits the wet pitch and Atalanta’s likely dominance. It’s not impossible to imagine Vlahović grabbing a goal on the run, which feels fine.

However, I can’t see any way that Atalanta don’t score at least 2 and probably more. Fiorentina haven’t kept a clean sheet since blanking Spezia in mid-February and have averaged 2 goals against over their past 5. Add in the usual threat of a rete dell’ex from Iličić and Muriel, not to mention the sheer difference in competence, and it’s tough to see this as anything better than a loss, likely to the tune of 1-3 or so. This is the one game a year where TMBGD can’t predict a win or a draw. Sorry.

Forza Viola!