Fiorentina have a short week to shake off the funk they sank into against Inter Milan on Tuesday as they head north and east to take on Udinese. In 102 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W51 D28 L23 mark, including W6 D3 L1 mark over the past 10. That loss, though, came in this fixture last season, when the good guys slumped to an abject 0-1.
The referee for this one is 36 year old Davide Ghersini of Genoa. He’s worked 17 previous Serie A games, handing out 72 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 9 penalties. This’ll be just his 3rd Fiorentina game; the previous two were a 3-0 romp over SPAL and a 0-1 capitulation against Benevento.
The match will be played on Sunday, 26 September 2021, at 1:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, in the Stadio Friuli in Udine. The forecast calls for a typically gray, Friulian autumn day. There’s a chance of drizzle, but it should be reasonably warm and still, so don’t expect a redux of the Genoa swamp.
Through 5 games, Udinese have coped with the departures of their two best players—Rodrigo de Paul and Juan Musso—pretty well. They sit in 10th place with 7 points, including a couple of impressive performances in a 2-2 draw against minnows Juventus and a 0-1 loss at AS Roma yesterday. As always, they look like they’ll stay in Serie A for another season despite lacking the resources most other clubs who’ve been in the league for 27 straight years possess.
Manager Luca Gotti will sweat the absence of CF Isaac Success (flu), but squad rotation will likely reshape his XI from what we saw against the Giallorossi. The hulking Beto should draw the start up front, while Tolgay Arslan and Jens Stryger Larsen are also likely to return to the lineup. This being Udinese, it’s going to be a 3-5-2, of course, so at least we know what to expect there.
That’s the thing about the Zebretti: you know exactly what they’re going to do, but they do it well enough to compete in almost every game. They like to work the ball around the back and really focus on getting forward in the wide areas, with the wingbacks tasked with a lot of progressive passing and ball-carrying before releasing a midfielder or striker working into the channel. Rather than deliberate buildup, though, they focus on high-risk, high-reward moves, which can lull an opposing defense to sleep before striking very quickly indeed.
It’s been an all-or-nothing kind of year so far, as the Viola sit in 6th place on 9 points following three 1-goal wins and a couple of big losses against title contenders. That said, you can see that the team is clearly progressing from its recent, listless past. While they’re yet to keep a clean sheet, the lowest-scoring games they’ve featured in has had 3 goals, so at the very least, they’ve been a lot of fun for the neutral.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have LW Nicolás González (suspended) or CM Gaetano Castrovilli (ribs) and may not get RB Lorenzo Venuti (shoulder) or Erick Pulgar (thigh) either. He’ll field his usual 4-3-3, but as we’ve learned, predicting who’ll fill out those spots after Dušan Vlahović, Cristiano Biraghi, and Giacomo Bonaventura can be a fool’s errand. That said, José Callejón, Lucas Martínez Quarta, Alfred Duncan, and Riccardo Sottil all look likely to start.
Udinese will likely sit deep and cede possession, so the attack here will be mostly predicated on finding spaces in the deep block. Without Nico or Tanino, Jack will carry most of the creative burden. Sottil’s dribbling (and decision-making) could be decisive, but the team needs to focus on getting Vlahović more touches in the area (he’s 52nd in per-90 there for Serie, behind 3 of his own teammates); if they can do that, the big man should give them a very good chance to get a result.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Most of the betting lines I’ve seen have Fiorentina as slight favorites, which feels about right. The trip to Udine is always tough (more so since 4 March 2018) and the Zebrette are about as well-drilled a side as you’ll find in Italy. They know exactly who they are, what they want to do, and how they want to do it. Those teams are always tough outs.
That said, I think Fiorentina will walk away with a 0-2 win, largely due to a renewed focus on getting Vlahović involved. I think he’ll score one and set up another (let’s call it a layoff for Duncan) and that the Viola will be too good in possession for their hosts to disrupt very much, especially with an extra day of rest.