Fresh off the sort of frustrating, referee-induced loss that we usually expect in midseason, Fiorentina play at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in front of fans for the first time. The opponent is Torino, perhaps the only club in Italy to despise J******s more than we do, so we should be friends. In 158 previous meetings, the good guys hold a W53 D54 L51 edge, including a mark of W4 D4 L2 over their past 10 Serie A meetings. This fixture opened last season, in fact, and ended with a controlled 1-0 win. In fact, the Granata haven’t tasted a league triumph at the Franchi since 1976.
The referee for this one is 39 year old Maurizio Mariani of Aprilia. In 18 Serie A games last year, he handed out 68 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and 9 penalties, which indicates a pretty hands-off approach. In 10 games under his watch, Fiorentina are W5 D2 L3. We last saw him in the shameful biscotto at Cagliari.
The match will be played on Saturday, 28 August 2021, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for rain the day before and through the night, but it should stop by kickoff; even so, there’ll likely be some pretty serious wind gusts and some very slick grass, although at least the temperatures will stay low.
Last week’s defeat at AS Roma was definitely a massive letdown, largely due to the refereeing, but also showcased some intriguing growth compared to last year. New manager Vincenzo Italiano has clearly started to build an identity, but now he needs a win to really make it count and start building some momentum.
He’ll have to do it without Bartłomiej Drągowski (suspended), but might have new signing Lucas Torreira available, although you’d expect he’d start from the bench. That should mean a mostly unchanged XI, although Gaetano Castrovilli should replace Youssef Maleh. Lucas Martínez Quarta and Riccardo Sottil could also shove Igor and José Callejón out of the lineup.
Torino will likely sit deep, so Fiorentina will need to break them down. Crosses from the fullbacks will definitely feature in the gameplan, but the creative onus will likely be on Castrovilli and Giacomo Bonaventura, who can both deform a low block with their dribbling and movement, respectively. Nicolás González will likely pinch in, allowing Cristiano Biraghi forward on the overlap, while Callejón should stay wider on the right. As ever, though, everything is geared towards getting Dušan Vlahović touches in the opponent’s area. If he has chances, expect goals.
The Ivan Jurić era nearly got off to a flying start last week as they came about 30 seconds away from holding Atalanta to a draw, but conceded a late equalizer to end up with nothing. They were miles the better team, though, firing 21 shots (8 on target) to la Dea’s 7 and 2. After years in the wilderness (and stop me if this sounds familiar), il Toro may have finally found the man and the system to resume its traditional place in the Serie A hierarchy.
Jurić is all about his 3-4-2-1 and should use about the same lineup he did last time out, although Andrea Belotti will start instead of Antonio Sanabria. With Rolando Mandragora and Saša Lukić providing the creativity in the middle while Ola Aina and Wilfried Singo add tremendous pace out wide, this is a team that can turn defense into attack very quickly, especially when Karol Linetty drops in to add another body to the engine room and Marko Pjaca (!) or Simone Verdi pull wide to provide an easy outlet in transition.
Torino don’t mind conceding possession and instead focus on staying very compact, which means they’re usually in position to get lots of bodies forward when they win the ball. While their midfield has the skill to pick a pass, they prefer playing directly, using the wingbacks to drive forward or looking for Belotti to link up with his fellow attackers. They’re more than willing to shoot from distance and love to find a midfielder making a late run to the top of the box for a cutback, so Erick Pulgar will need to be on his toes.
How to watch
TV: Nah. Check the full international television listings if you want, but nah.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Unlike the past few years, Torino isn’t a pushover. Jurić is a fantastic coach and his teams tend to be tough to break down. That said, Fiorentina will be angry about the injustice of last week and will get a big boost from the Franchi, even if the Curva Fiesole won’t possess its usual intensity—the ultras have decided not to return en masse until the pandemic restrictions are lifted and they can resume their typical pomp.
I’ll bet the chalk here. The Viola are favorites among the betting houses and should be the better team; none of the visitors’ defenders should be able to slow down Vlahović too much and Fiorentina’s quick tempo should create overloads out wide. I’ll call it a 2-0 to the good guys, with Vlahović and González on the scoresheet in a game that’s tense, end-to-end, and generally pretty dang fun.