We’re finally through this odd and terrifying international break, which means that Fiorentina get to resume their season against Atalanta. In 134 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W58 D43 L33 edge, which means they’ve tallied more league victories over la Dea than any other team. Over their past 10 matches in Serie A, though, that’s plummeted to a W1 D5 L4 mark, highlighting just how opposite the trajectories for these two outfits have been of late.
The referee for this one is 38-year-old Valerio Marini of Rome. He’s only refereed 10 Serie A games in his career, handing out 39 yellow cards, no red cards, and a whopping 7 penalties, which indicates a willingness to let things go in the middle before bringing down the hammer at decisive moments. This will be the first Viola match he’s ever handled, so let’s all take notes and figure out what exactly we dislike about him.
The match will be played on Saturday, 11 September 2021, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio di Bergamo (or the Gewiss Stadium, if you must) in Bergamo. The forecast calls for a warm, cloudy evening, although it won’t be too humid, at least.
It feels like the sheen of invincibility may be coming off la Dea, who needed a stoppage time winner to earn three points at Torino (who were miles the better side) before failing to break down Bologna last time out. While recent history definitely shows that Fiorentina have been woeful in Bergamo—failing to win there since 2015—this might be the right moment to play the Nerazzurri. Unless, of course, this is the moment they pull it all together and resume their typically terrifying identity.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini has no shortage of absences to cope with: CF Luis Muriel (thigh), DM Marten de Roon (suspension), RM Hans Hateboer (foot), while CF Duván Zapata will start from the bench. That means we should see Roberto Piccoli up top, with the exciting Teun Koopmeiners possibly getting the nod in midfield. Gasperini’s system, of course, will remain unchanged: the 3-4-2-1 that features everyone charging forward with and without the ball to overwhelm opponents in and out of possession is the real star in Bergamo.
The main threat is probably Josip Iličić, who’s scored against his former employers Fiorentina for 3 straight seasons, although Ruslan Malinovskiy’s wicked shot from distance is also a concern. Since la Dea tend to dominate possession, the challenge for the Tuscans will be ensuring that the ball stays in harmless areas rather than working its way into spaces between the lines, where the Atalanta attackers excel at shooting, passing, or driving into the area for a layoff or cutback. Sounds simple, sure, but there’s a reason the Bergamaschi have lit up the scoring charts since Gasp took over. They’re really, really good at what they do.
It’s only been two games, but we’ve seen enough promise in the loss at AS Roma and the win against Torino that we, as fans, haven’t started fully despairing yet; that means we’re well behind schedule compared to the previous couple of seasons, so it’s easy to say that things look awfully rosy in Firenze right now despite some serious concerns about squad depth.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano should have his full squad available, although Nicolás González, Lucas Martínez Quarta, and Erick Pulgar may start from the bench following their grueling/bizarre CONMEBOL workload. That means that we should see Lucas Torreira make his debut in midfield, while Riccardo Sottil should slot in on the left wing. The other big question is at rightback, where incumbent Lorenzo Venuti should keep his spot ahead of Real Madrid loanee Álvaro Odriozola.
Since the hosts should see more of the ball, this will be a fascinating test for Italiano. The conventional wisdom against Atalanta is to drop deep, minimize space between the lines, and counter with 2 or 3 quick attackers. The Viola mister, however, has emphasized his desire for proactivity both with and without the ball. It could be that he cedes to the reality of Atalanta’s well-oiled machine, but Fiorentina could look to take the initiative at times, which could backfire spectacularly or work brilliantly if Gasperini’s men aren’t expecting it.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The past half decade tells us that the best Fiorentina can hope for is a draw here, but the combination of injuries and apparent fragility mean this is probably the best time for them to break that streak. Even so, I can’t imagine anything better than a 2-2 draw, so let’s go with that. Goals to Lurch (naturally) and Malinovskiy for the bad guys, with Vlahović and Jack clawing the good guys level in a surprisingly open match.