Fresh off yet another what-if match against Bologna, Fiorentina head home to take on a desperate and dangerous Lazio. In 158 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W51 D43 L64 record, including a run of 7 straight without beating the Aquile; in fact, the last time the good guys won in this one, Paulo Sousa was their coach, with Khouma Babacar and Nikola Kalinić both on the scoresheet. 2017 feels like a long time ago, eh? Anyways, the reverse fixture ended 2-1 to the Romans.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Fabio Maresca of Naples, who’s spent more time in the headlines than any other match official this year. In 12 Serie A games this year, he’s issued 72 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 1 penalty. In 6 games under his eye, Fiorentina have managed W1 D3 L2; last we saw him, he was sending Franck Ribery off for a bad (but maybe not that bad) challenge on Davide Zappacosta against Genoa.
The match will be played on Saturday, 8 May 2021, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a stupidly beautiful evening. There’s a slight chance of rain earlier in the day, but the clouds should mostly blow away by kickoff, giving the stars a chance to watch on. Just a perfect spring night in Tuscany.
With 5 points from 5 matches, Fiorentina are almost back on pace for their point-per-game average this year: with 35 points from 34 games, they’ve left themselves 14th, just 4 points above Benevento and the final relegation spot with 4 games to go, although owning the tiebreaker against the Stregoni (as well as Torino and Spezia) means that the Viola will need quite the meltdown to wind up in Serie B; while that’s always a possibility with this team, a point against Lazio could go a long way towards assuring salvation.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini is still without Igor (suspended), Borja Valero (old), and Aleksandr Kokorin (???), but you know he’s going to trot out his usual 5-3-2. Giacomo Bonaventura should get the nod over Gaetano Castrovilli for the more attacking midfield spot after scoring last week against the Rossoblù, so the real question is at the back: Germán Pezzella was disastrous, but Lucas Martínez Quarta’s indiscipline could see him stuck to the bench again anyways.
You know what to expect from BeppeBall. The plan is to play for set pieces; failing that, expect to see Dušan Vlahović battle 1-v-3 to control a lot of long passes. Because Lazio don’t play a high line, they’re trickier to break against than the other teams at the top of the table, and thus have a much easier time stymying everything that Fiorentina are good (fine? not bad?) at. Add to that a group of big, strong players across the back and on the wings, and you’ve got the template of a team that’s designed to give the Viola a lot of trouble.
Winners of 7 in their last 8, the capital club is making a late surge up the table in search of European competition next year. They’re just 3 points behind Napoli with a game in hand, so you know they’ll be desperate to get a win here and pull even with there blue rivals, especially with AC Milan looking vulnerable in third place.
Manager Simone Inzaghi may have CB Luiz Felipe (ankle) and CM Gonzalo Escalante (leg) back from injury and will trade CB Francesco Acerbi back from suspension while losing LM Mohamed Fares; CF Felipe Caicedo (foot) is out. Since Inzaghi only plays a 3-5-2 this year, that means it’ll be the red-hot Joaquín Correa partnering Ciro Immobile up top, with Senad Lulić on the left. The only question is whether it’ll be Adam Marušić or Manuel Lazzari on the right, although early reports indicate the latter should get the nod with the former dropping into defense.
You know what to expect from Lazio’s attack by now. Immobile and Correa are both quick and excel at working the channels and getting in behind. If playing directly isn’t an option, Luis Alberto is tasked with unlocking the defense. Failing that, the brute force of Sergej Milenković-Savić can become the focal point. Expect a pretty deep block from the Viola in order to prevent the forwards from getting in behind, but with Luis Alberto and Milenković-Savić both dangerous when shooting from distance, minimizing space between the lines may be even more important. Erick Pulgar’s in for a busy evening.
How to watch
TV: Not likely. Check the full international television listings if you want to be sure.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
It’s awfully tough to imagine Fiorentina taking much from this one. Lazio have their backs against the wall and need to win if they’re going to make the Champions League again; that kind of motivation is probably more than this disinterested Viola squad can muster. Too, the Aquile under Inzaghi have proven a really tough nut for the good guys over the past half decade.
Given that this is Fiorentina, there are only three possible outcomes for a game in which they’re big underdogs: they fail to show up and get blown out of the water by four goals; they play well, take the lead at some point, but end up losing it in the most unimaginable way possible; or they shock everyone and scrape out a result. I’m leaning towards the middle one, so let’s go with a 1-1, with Vlahović getting his 20th (!) goal of the year to open the scoring and Immobile adding one to close it back down.