Fresh off an inspiring and utterly bonkers 2-5 win over Napoli in the Coppa Italia, Fiorentina return the Franchi to take on Genoa. In 113 previous meetings, the good guys hold a W48 D40 L25 edge, although that’s just W2 D7 L1 over their past 10 meetings. They did beat the Grifoni 1-2 in the reverse fixture, at least, so there’s reason to believe they can do it again, especially since they haven’t lost at home to Genoa since 1977.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Fabio Maresca of Naples. In 6 Serie A appearances this year, he’s handed out 44 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 2 penalties; he’s got a reputation for high-profile mistakes, so don’t be shocked if he drops a clanger. In the 7 Fiorentina games he’s overseen, the Viola are W2 D3 L2. Last we saw him was the 2-0 win over Lazio last year that assured survival.
The match will be played on Monday, 17 January 2022, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a chilly evening, but there shouldn’t be any rain or wind. While the 5000 fans allowed inside will likely be bundled up to the nostrils, it should be just about perfect conditions for a game.
While that barnburner against the Partenopei was fun, Fiorentina have been pretty poor in the league of late. 8 points from the past 5 matches might seem like a solid return until you realize that they they’re winless in 3 straight and have looked awfully poor, especially against Torino last week. Since there’s still no ruling on the Udinese “postponement,” the Viola have a chance to add 6 points and leapfrog both Lazio and AS Roma, but they’ll need to turn it around and get a win here.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CB Lucas Martínez Quarta but should have everyone else, including RW Riccardo Sottil, at his disposal. Expect some heavy rotation after the guys went 120 minutes in the Coppa game midweek. RW Jonathan Ikone could make his first start, while DM Erick Pulgar may get the nod ahead of Lucas Torreira. CB Igor, RB Álvaro Odriozola, and CM Giacomo Bonaventura should return to the XI as well.
Since it’s a bit of a mystery as to how Genoa will start, Italiano will have to have multiple approaches ready to go. The Viola should see the majority of the ball and will likely focus on winning it back very quickly when they lose it, as a very high tempo has been a calling card for this club so far. With the Grifoni likely to defend with everyone closer to their own box than to midfield, we’ll need some creativity from Bonaventura, Ikone, and Nico González. If those guys and Dušan Vlahović can win their battles, they should have a good chance to make things happen.
This is a team in absolute chaos. They’ve failed to win 20 straight league games and have only won once all year. They’re second-last with 12 points, just 1 ahead of imploding Salernitana, and are all but assured of relegation. They just sacked Andriy Shevchenko, who was their second manager of the year, and may well have to bring back Davide Ballardini to finish the season. Despite their non-stop catastrophes, though, they’re probably a bit better than they’ve looked and could spring an ambush with the dead coach bounce.
Interim manager Mauro Tassotti has a host of absences to cope with: CB Nikola Maksimović, CB Davide Biraschi, CB Johan Vásquez, LB Domenico Criscito, DM Valon Behrami, DM Hernani, and CF Yayah Kallon are all out. There’s some question as to how the Grifoni will line up: they could stick with Shevchenko’s 4-3-3 or revert to a 5-3-2 for added solidity, especially with so many defenders missing. The danger man is undoubtedly Mattia Destro, who’s got 8 goals despite the mayhem around him. Keep an eye on LB Andrea Cambiaso, too, as he’s chipped in with 4 assists and looks like a promising young player.
No matter how they line up, Genoa are going to sit very deep and try to frustrate Fiorentina in any way they can. Expect lots of fouls and very little attacking from anyone other than the front two, who will work the channels and try to link up for the occasional quick counterattack. Destro and Felipe Caicedo both have the pace to cause problems in behind, so Italiano will likely want his guys to cut off the supply rather than dropping deeper to deny that space.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Look, we’re all Fiorentina fans here. That means that we always expect this club to trip over its own feet against anyone lower in the table, and we have decades of precedence to explain our trepidation. Dead coach bounce is a real thing, and if the Viola come into this overconfident, they could set themselves up for a spectacular meltdown.
But let’s be honest here: the hosts are massive favorites for a very good reason. The visitors are nearly in last place for a very good reason. Sometimes you have to take the chalk, and this is one of those times. I’m calling it a 3-0 win, with Vlahović, González, and Ikone getting the goals as the good guys romp to a fairly simple win over an outmatched opponent. Now it’s up to the players to deliver the goods in a game they have no business leaving with anything but all three points.