After surviving Spezia, Fiorentina face Atalanta for the third time this season and the second time in as many weeks. In 136 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W60 D43 L33 mark, although that sinks to W2 D4 L4 over their past 10 league meetings. On the other hand, the good guys have won both previous matchups so far, both in the league and in the Coppa Italia, so who knows?
The referee for this one is 44-year-old Daniele Doveri of Rome. In 9 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 33 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 6 penalties. In 24 outings under his eye, Fiorentina are W13 D3 L8; last we saw him was the frustrating 1-1 at Hellas Verona in which he let the Mastini kick the absolute stuffing out of the Viola without any real interest.
The match will be played on Sunday, 20 February 2022, at 11:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a crisp, clear morning, the type that makes the hills visible over the Curva Fiesole look sharper and more beautiful than they usually do. Should be lovely.
The Viola have been as unpredictable as ever, gathering 7 points from their past 5 league outings. In that span, they’ve posted a 4-0 loss and a 6-0 win, so you really can’t predict who’s going to show up.Despite their erratic form, they’re still in 8th place on 39 points with a game in hand; a win here and in the likely replay against Udinese (if the league ever gets around to scheduling it) could vault the good guys past AS Roma and into the European places.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have GK Pietro Terracciano but should have everyone else available. Given his love of surprise selections, there’s no knowing how he’ll set his team out, but Lucas Torreira and Giacomo Bonaventura should return to midfield. The only other certainties are Bartłomiej Drągowski between the sticks, Nikola Milenković in central defense, and Cristiano Biraghi on the left. The other 7 spots are all up for grabs.
Fiorentina have scored 5 goals against Atalanta this year. 4 have come from penalties and the other from a free kick. That’s no great surprise, as la Dea’s defenders are well-drilled and know exactly what they’re doing, although they’re capable of the odd mistake at the back. That makes me think that a lot of this will come down to the Viola isolating their explosive dribblers and making things happen, so the burden will likely fall on Nicolás González and his partner (Riccardo Sottil?) to beat their markers.
5th in the league but with 2 games in hand, la Dea need wins if they want to leapfrog Juventus for the last Champions League spot. That’s a problem, as they’re winless in their past 3 Serie A matches, although they impressed in a 1-1 draw against the Notts County cosplayers last week. More impressive, perhaps, was a gutsy 2-1 win over Olympiacos, led by a brace from a defender, which, yeah, that’s about as Atalanta as you can get. They’ve got the second leg in Greece on Thursday, though, which could lead to some extra rotation.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini doesn’t have any strikers: Luis Muriel, Duván Zapata, and Josip Iličić, along with Aleksey Miranchuk and José Palomino. All those injuries have pushed him to adapt his famous 3-4-1-2 system at times this year, as he’s been forced into a 4-man defense at times, but he’ll likely stick with his trademark shape. Expect Mario Pašalić, Ruslan Malinovskiy, and Jeremie Boga in the tridente, just as they were in the Coppa match.
Without that natural threat in behind, the Atalanta attack seems to rely more than ever on rotations down the wings and quick, clever interchanges between the lines. Stopping Boga is probably priority number one after he carved up the Viola rearguard a couple of weeks ago, but Atalanta can score in so many ways—set pieces, long range howitzers, crosses to the wingbacks running in late—that there’s no single silver bullet for them.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The oddsmakers have this one pretty even, with Atalanta generally seen as very slight favorites. I don’t completely agree: the lack of a striker is a serious problem and made la Dea look toothless at times against Olympiacos, and they were a bit ragged at the back as well. Both of those more or less match up with what we saw in the Coppa last week, so I don’t think you can say it’s entirely an outlier anymore.
That’s why I’m calling a scintillating 2-1 win for the hosts. This one feels like it’ll have goals, so take the over on the 2.5 number. I’ll go with Nico opening the scoring for the hosts before a Malinovskiy bomb cancels it out, setting the stage for Arthur to win it late with his first Fiorentina goal. Atalanta, of course, love to ruin these little narratives, though, so any sort of result will feel just fine.