Having reversed a miserable start to the season and rattled off 5 straight wins (3 in Serie A) to reach 10th place, Fiorentina’s reward is a date with scudetto holders AC Milan in their final match of 2022. In 177 previous meetings, the Viola hold a record of W51 D48 L78, including W3 D2 L5 mark over the past 10 meetings. This fixture last year saw the good guys battle impressively, only to be undone by a clanger from the goalkeeper in a scrappy 1-0 defeat.
The referee for this one is 35-year-old Simone Sozza of Seregno (a suburb of Milan). In 5 Serie A appearances this year, he’s handed out 30 yellow cards and 1 penalty; he’s always been quick for a yellow card but slow for a red or a PK. Fiorentina have lost both matches under his direction. You may recall the 1-0 loss at Juventus last year in which he allowed the Bianconeri to get away with all kinds of goofy stuff: an obvious Danilo handball that didn’t get called (sound familiar) and Mattijs de Ligt poking Pietro Terracciano’s eyeball without any consequence are the most obvious ones, but he was pretty bad all around.
The match will be played on Sunday, 13 November 2022, at 5:00 PMGMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio San Siro in Milan. The forecast calls for a chilly day, but that shouldn’t stop a large traveling contingent from making themselves heard. More than anything, though, let’s hope nobody gets hurt, especially with the World Cup starting a week after. Which is the stupidest thing imaginable.
The reigning champions of Italy haven’t been quite as good this year but remain one of the top teams on the peninsula. They currently sit in 3rd with 30 points, even with Lazio, but 8 points off leaders Napoli, and are in fairly good form, taking 10 points from their past 5 games, although the midweek draw at Cremonese raised some eyebrows. They’ve also advanced to the Champions League knockout rounds and a date with Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur, which should be fascinating.
Manager Stefano Pioli won’t have GK Mike Maignan, RB Davide Calabria, RB Alessandro Florenzi, RW Alexis Saelemaekers, or CF Zlatan Ibrahimović, but those long-term absences won’t affect his plans. He’ll set up in his usual 4-2-3-1 (although he flirted with 3 at the back in the midweek, that was likely more due to personnel issues than a genuine tactical revolution), with the danger primarily coming from LW Rafael Leāo (5 goals, 4 assists), CF Olivier Giroud (5 goals, 2 assists), and AM Brahím Díaz (4 goals, 1 assist). There are a number of ex-Viola figures in the squad, too, headlined by the Piolus himself and his attendant Pioli, as well as Ante Rebić (who’s been in good form as well) and Ciprian Tătărușanu.
Pioli has turned Milan into a pressing machine, so forcing turnovers remains their primary method of attack. With the ball, they’re still quite good, boasting technical ability all over the pitch, but they’re more likely to attack vertically and quickly rather than knocking it around. That allows them to find forwards like Leāo in space. Giroud offers an excellent Plan B, as his holdup game and aerial presence allows him to win high balls and bring runners into play, while Theo Hernández is almost more of an attacking midfielder than a leftback. We know the Rossonero formula under Pioli, and it’s fairly basic, but they’re so good at it that it’s still quite difficult to stop.
10 points from the past 5 matches, including 3 wins on the bounce, has Fiorentina fans feeling a lot better about their team, although those wins haven’t exactly come against top-notch competition. Still, the chance to go into the break on a high note is tantalizing, especially because a win here would assure them of remaining in the top half of the table during the World Cup break.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have GK Pierluigi Golllini, CM Gaetano Castrovilli, or LW Riccardo Sottil, while RW Nicolás González’ status remains an utter mystery. Cousin Vinnie will probably roll with the 4-2-3-1 that’s rejuvenated the squad. Giacomo Bonaventura and Riccardo Saponara will likely hope to feature against their former employer, but the real question is up front, where Luka Jović probably has the edge over Arthur Cabral.
Milan are as good a pressing team as you’ll see in Italy and will try to pin Fiorentina deep. With a bunch of strong and fast players in midfield and at the back, they have the recovery speed to snuff out counters, although their high line does leave them exposed to pace in behind, and they’ve had trouble staying out of the book at times; as they’ve been sub par defending set pieces, that’s an area the Viola could look to exploit. Expect a lot of quick hits up to Jonathan Ikoné on the wing to start quick breaks and prevent mistakes in the buildup.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Milan are big favorites here for obvious reasons. They’re the reigning champions and hold an 11-point lead in the standings after just 14 games over Fiorentina, they’ve probably got more talent across the board, and they’re at home (they’ve won every game they’ve played a the San Siro this year except for a defeat to Napoli). Despite a recent uptick in form, the Viola aren’t at that level yet.
Still, because TMBGD is always a place for unbridled optimism, let’s call it a 1-2 win for the good guys behind a man of the match performance from Pietro Terracciano, making up for his mistake in this fixture last year. I’ll call it as goals from Luka Jović and Antonín Barák, with Leāo on the scoresheet as well in a game that’s very open, full of fouls, and features a red card at some point.