Fiorentina head into their final match of the season with nothing to play for against a Crotone side with just as little motivation; both teams are only playing for pride at this point. In their 5 previous matches against the Squali (the first was in 2016), the Viola hold a record of W3 D1 L1, including a 2-1 triumph featuring a Giacomo Bonaventura worldie in the reverse fixture.
The referee for this one is 38 year old Eugenio Abbattista of Molfetta, who’ll be handling just his 3rd Serie A game of the season; he’s handed out 11 yellow cards and a red in the other two, although he’s usually much slower to the pocket. This will be his first exposure to the Viola, so slakas had better get that notebook ready, especially since Abbattista was at the center of a pretty big Serie B refereeing scandal just last year. To be fair, he’s been cleared of any wrongdoing despite some rather sketchy goings on.
The match will be played on Saturday, 22 May 2021, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for scattered showers through the weekend, but it should be mostly dry during the proceedings. Even if it’s not, a warm and damp Tuscan evening sounds pretty fine.
After earning promotion to Serie A for the first time in club history back in 2016 and shocking everyone by staying up for a year, the Squali will drop back down to Serie B after a year-long absence. It’s too bad, as they’ve provided some good moments and occasionally made bigger opponents sweat, but conceding 92 goals—12 more than second-worst Parma and the worst in Serie A history—isn’t going to work out well, even though they’ve scored as many as 10th place Hellas Verona.
Manager and part-time DJ (no, really) Serse Cosmi will have to cope without LB Arkadiusz Reca (knee), while CF Junior Messias (flu) and CB Sebastiano Luperto (knee) may only be fit enough for the bench. He’ll send out the usual 3-5-2; since the Pitagorici are going down, he may alter his selections to give a few veterans a final moment in the Serie A sun, but it’ll likely be the usual suspects. The danger man, of course, is towering striker Simeon Nankwo, who’s been absolutely superb this year, scoring 20 goals and surely earning a move elsewhere this summer. Messias and Adam Ounas provide the support up front and are both capable enough, but this is the Simy show and we should all appreciate the Nigerian’s efforts for one last game this year.
The Sharks are happy to knock the ball around the back, but their primary avenue of attack is individual skill: unless Messias or Ounas can get into 1-v-1 situations with opposing defenders, there really isn’t much creativity going forward despite the presence of schemers like Luca Cigarini, Ahmad Benali, and Niccolò Zanellato. They’re also happy to fire from range—they average the farthest distance per shot of any team in the division—but let’s be honest: unless Simy gets a chance in the box, this attack goes nowhere. Sticking tight to him means that Fiorentina have every chance of keeping a clean sheet.
Following a biscotto at Cagliari and a routine loss to Napoli, the Viola would surely like to close out this thrice-accursed season on a high note, especially since a win could see them jump all the way up to 11th place. That would be the proverbial lipstick on a pig, as the team didn’t mathematically secure salvation until the 35th game of the year, but it’d at least dial down some of the grimness surrounding the club at the moment and maybe (maybe) provide some momentum heading into next year.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will have to do without GK Bartłomiej Drągowski (suspended) but has the rest of the squad available, and has told the press that he’ll be fielding his strongest XI rather than looking to rotate. That should ensure that Franck Ribery and Martín Cáceres start as usual; the only remaining question is which of Gaetano Castrovilli, Sofyan Amrabat, and Giacomo Bonaventura will drop to the bench in midfield.
Are you really wondering how Fiorentina will attack? I mean, it’s BeppeBall. You know it. It’s painted on the backs of your eyelids so you can’t even escape it in sleep. All joking aside, Crotone’s defense is just so laughably bad that Dušan Vlahović has a decent chance to pass Romelu Lukaku and Luis Muriel in the scoring chart. I’d highlight where the Viola should focus on attacking, but the Pitagorici are so hopeless at the back that they can and will concede in pretty much any way imaginable. That’s how you end up keeping just 2 clean sheets.
How to watch
TV: No. Check the full international television listings, but very no.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This is a really tough one to predict, as neither side really has anything to push them into giving it more than a perfunctory attempt. Indeed, the hosts may have more motivation, as many of these players are auditioning for a move this summer and will thus be doing their utmost to impress. The range of outcomes includes, well, just about every single one you can imagine.
However, the sheer difference in quality means that you have to back Fiorentina here. Iachini’s likely to whip the players into something approaching a competent mindset, and Crotone’s historically awful defense is likely to be the difference. We’ll call it a 1-3 to the visitors, with Vlahović getting a brace and Christian Kouamé snatching a late one off the bench, while Simy adds to his impressive tally on the other end. Really, though, it could be anything, especially since it doesn’t matter to anyone but the supporters.