Fiorentina regroup from a Thursday triumph over Başakşehir and head north for something of a grudge match against Spezia. In 10 previous meetings, the Viola are undefeated against the Aquilotti, winning 6 and drawing 4, including 3 victories on the bounce. This fixture last year resulted in a dramatic 1-2 victory as certain Moroccan made a huge mistake and then redeemed himself late on.
The referee for this one is 41-year-old Davide Massa of Imperia. In 3 Serie A appearances this year, he’s handed out 16 yellow cards; he’s got a history of being fairly slow with the cards but relatively quick to point for a penalty, although he’s drawn a lot of criticism recently. In 21 matches under his guidance, Fiorentina are W8 D7 L6. We most recently saw him in the 2-1 loss at Salernitana last year.
The match will be played on Sunday, 30 October 2022, at 2:00 PM GMT/10:00 AM EST at the Stadio Alberto Picco in Spezia. The forecast calls for a really lovely, warm fall day, with temperatures around the sweater stratum and, unlike the autumnal Ligurian conditions you might expect, mostly clear skies and no rain.
After two remarkable seasons in Serie A, things are looking a bit grim for the Little Eagles that Could. They’re 16th in the league with just 9 points from 11 matches, the 2nd-fewest goals scored, and the 3rd-most conceded. They’ve lost 3 of their past 4 and been outscored 9-2 in that stretch, including a loss to Salernitana last time out.
Manager Luca Gotti won’t have CM Viktor Kovalenko or CF Emmanuel Gyasi, but old friends Bartłomiej Drągowski, Kevin Agudelo, and Petko Hristov are ready to go. M’bala Nzola is a big, fast, and clever up front, but without Gyasi’s pace next to him, Gotti will turn to Dani Verde or David Strelec as the secunda punta next to him. There could be further changes as well as the Aquilotti grasp for a winning combination, so don’t be surprised to see some rotation elsewhere as well. Nzola’s the only threat so far, with 4 goals.
Look, this is a straight up bad attacking team. They take the 3rd-fewest shots in the league (9.9) and the fewest on target (2). They don’t see much of the ball and aren’t particularly good at working it forward. They’ll spend a lot of time in a deep block, hoping to spring their pacy forwards or wingbacks, and swing in crosses. They’re not usually a route one outfit, as Gotti prefers them to play it quickly through the middle and then out wide along the carpet, but they’ll likely look to attack the space in behind, especially since they’ll be 2-v-2 with the Viola central defenders. So yeah, no pressure, boys.
Even in winning 2-1 and securing qualification for the next round of the Conference League, Fiorentina left supporters a bit antsy, given the miserable finishing that kept what should have been a blowout as a 1-goal margin. The trick now is translating that continental form into domestic form, which has been a real struggle: the Viola sit 14th in Serie A with 10 points from 11 games and a -5 goal difference.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have RW Nicolás González or LW Riccardo Sottil but should welcome back CM Youssef Maleh, although he’ll likely start from the bench with Giacomo Bonaventura and Alfred Duncan ahead of him. Cristiano Biraghi will return to defense, while Arthur Cabral and Jonathan Ikoné may get an opportunity here. The real good news, though, is that we’ll have World’s Funnest Dad Pietro Terracciano back between the posts.
The good news here is that Spezia is pretty bad defensively. They tend to press a bit more aggressively than they ought to and are prone to being played through too easily. That should be music to Italiano’s ears, as he’ll likely order his side to invite the Aquilotti pressure and then try to break past it. They’ve defended crosses reasonably well and will probably pack the middle, as most teams do against Fiorentina. If the wingers can win their battles as they did against Başakşehir, though, the good guys could actually come out of this with a positive result.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are definitely the favorites here. They’ve shown signs of competence—they deserved at least a draw against Inter Milan and several more goals against Başakşehir—and, with respect, they’ve got a talent advantage. Spezia are scrappy and will bring the heat, especially with guys like Italiano and Drągowski bringing certain emotions with them, but the visitors should still have the better odds.
I’ll call it a 0-2 win to the good guys, with a gorgeous curler from Saponara (he’s due for one of those) and Cabral (the poor guy absolutely deserves a goal after some rotten luck in his past two outings) providing the final margin in a match that’s a bit scruffy at times but mostly controlled by Fiorentina.