Following a really good performance against (an admittedly weakened) Atalanta, Fiorentina head across the Apennines to take on Sassuolo. In 17 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W6 D6 L5 record, although that drops to W2 D4 L4 in their previous 10 meetings. The reverse fixture was a wild and wacky 2-2 draw that featured a little bit of everything.
The referee for this one is 35-year-old Alessandro Prontera of Bologna. In 6 Serie A games this season, he’s issued 33 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 4 penalties; he’s got a reputation for awarding slightly soft penalties, which should get the attention of a certain Argentine winger. Fiorentina have won all 3 games he’s handled, most recently the 1-2 triumph last year at Hellas Verona in which he made some weird decisions.
The match will be played on Saturday, 26 February 2022, at 7:50 PM GMT/2:50 PM EST, at the Stadio Mapei in Sassuolo. The forecast calls for a clear, crisp day with no clouds, although it’s expected to be pretty windy, which could affect play a bit. If nothing else, expect to see the extra big coats on the substitutes’ bench.
It’s been a rather uneven year for Sassuolo, who currently sit 11th in the table with 33 points and a -1 goal difference. They beat Inter Milan at the San Siro last week and fought to a shorthanded draw with AS Roma just before that, but got shelled by Sampdoria and held by Torino before that. It’s just tough to know which outfit is going to show up for any given match.
Manager Alessio Dionisi won’t have CB Filippo Romagna, RB Jeremy Toljan, CM Pedro Obiang, or AM Filip Đuričić, but none of those absences will change his plans too much. A usual, he’ll trot out a 4-2-3-1 stuffed full of quality in the attack, where Domenico Berardi (10 goals, 7 assists), Gianluca Scamacca (10 goals), and Giacomo Raspadori (8 goals, 3 assists) form a potent attack. Their combination of pace, intelligence, and technical ability, as well as a setup that insists on building from the back, makes them very fun to watch, although their defense has been mightily leaky.
Because the Neroverdi like to build from deep, Fiorentina will want to press very high up to disrupt them and generate turnovers. The most important moments may be when that press gets broken; if the Viola can manage those transitions well, they should be in good shape. The problem, of course, is that Sassuolo have such a diverse collection of forwards that they can attack pretty much any way possible. They’re just a tough assignment. One thing to watch for is how the good guys deploy their defense; the de facto back three against Atalanta might work here as well.
After a brief wobble, Fiorentina seem to have righted themselves impressively, harvesting 10 points from their past 5 league games and advancing to the Coppa Italia semi-finals at Atalanta’s expense. That could set up a late run at the Europa League, especially if Roma and Atalanta continue flailing, although the remaining league fixtures are a pretty imposing run-in.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CB Matija Nastasić but gets GK Pietro Terracciano and DM Lucas Torreira back from injury. While his love of rotation makes predicting his XI nearly impossible, it sounds like Krzysztof Piątek will keep his spot up front, joining Nikola Milenković, Biraghi, and Nicolás González as the only certain starters in the usual 4-3-3.
Sassuolo have a knack for losing the ball deep in their own half that should make Italiano’s eyes light up, so the primary avenue of attack will be to turn them over high up and break quickly. Otherwise, it’ll be trying to draw them out and then hit Nico and let him cook against Rogério, who isn’t the sturdiest defensive presence around.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are slight favorites at most betting houses, which makes sense since they’re higher in the table, although Sassuolo have been a problem for them recently. I’d expect an intense, back-and-forth, high-scoring affair, both because that’s how both teams play and because they’ve never once had a scoreless draw; in fact, their last 5 meetings have produced 17 goals.
I’ll back the visitors to come away with all three points in a very entertaining affair. I’m going for broke and calling it a 2-3 barn burner, with Piątek penalty, a Nico goal, and a Giacomo Bonaventura blast providing the margin as Scamacca and Berardi (who’s scored 8 times in 14 games against the Viola) make it close. Should be a good one.