Fresh off the most heartbreaking possible loss to Juventus in the Coppa Italia, Fiorentina have to dust themselves off against Hellas Verona or risk entering a tailspin. In 77 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W37 D23 L17 record, although that drops to W3 D4 L3 over their past 10 meetings, including a 1-1 in the reverse fixture that was equal parts infuriating and fortunate.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Gianluca Manganiello of Pinerolo. In 7 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 31 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and nary a penalty; as you might have guessed, he has a reputation for letting the players get on with it and intervening as infrequently as possible. In 6 games under his watch, Fiorentina are undefeated with 4 wins and 2 draws, although last we saw him was that absurdly painful 2-2 draw at Spezia last year.
The match will be played on Sunday, 6 March 2022, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a lovely, clear spring day with a bit of breeze. It shouldn’t even be too chilly. Really, it’s everything you could ask for in an afternoon game.
Still in 8th place with 42 points, Fiorentina need to start stacking up some wins if they’re serious about getting into Europe next year, especially since their final dozen games look awfully tough. With just 7 points from their past 5 Serie A matches, and following that celestial misfortune against the Juvenuts, this is the kind of fixture they really need to win if they want to avoid a spiral.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CB Matija Nastasić, RB Álvaro Odriozola, or CM Giacomo Bonaventura, so Lorenzo Venuti will join the XI, which might be best so he doesn’t have time to brood. With no midweek match, there’s no need to rotate, so the only question marks are on the wings—Nico González is getting over a cold, but if healthy, he should start opposite one of the Rickies—and in central midfield, where Youssef Maleh and Alfred Duncan will look to partner Gaetano Castrovilli.
Expect Hellas to sit off a bit and let Fiorentina keep the ball. They’re patient out of possession, good at tempting opponents into corners and then springing the other way, so the Viola will need to avoid running into blind alleys. The Scaligeri are, however, one of the most foul-heavy teams in the league and aren’t good in the air, so set pieces should receive special emphasis here. They’re also excellent at packing the box, so shooting from distance could be a key as well.
It’s been a heck of a year for the Gialloblu, who were widely tipped to be relegation strugglers after losing talismanic manager Ivan Jurić to Torino. Instead, they’re up in 9th place with 40 points and look rock solid, grabbing 10 points over their past 5 outings. They’ve scored 11 and conceded 6 in that span, including an impressive 2-2 draw at AS Roma, so it’s not like they’re beating up the bottom of the table sides. They’re legit.
Manager Igor Tudor won’t have CB Pawel Dawidowicz, CB Panagiotis Retsos, LB Gianluca Frabotta, CM Miguel Veloso, AM Antonin Barak, AM Mateusz Praszelik, or RW Matteo Cancellieri. He’ll use the 3-4-2-1 that Jurić preferred, with ex-Viola striker Giovanni Simeone (15 goals) the primary threat up front. Behind him, Gianluca Caprari (9 goals, 7 assists) provides the creativity and trickiness, while Darko Lazović and Kevin Lasagna provide pace on the break.
Unlike a Jurić team, though, this is a very forward-thinking outfit; their 52 goals are 4th best in Serie A. They’re very quick at transitions, boasting a variety of nippy players who are good at finding space, particularly in the box, which means they generally try to build vertical moves pretty quickly; they lead the league in offsides. They’re not afraid to try their luck from distance, but more than anything, they’re quite creative in how they attack vertical space. And no, that’s not exactly what you want to hear as a Fiorentina fan.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are heavily favored here and it’s not too hard to see why, as they’re probably the better team and Hellas Verona are missing star man Barak. Still, the Mastini are a really well-coached outfit full of players who complement each other fantastically well, and Tudor’s done a really good job with them; I’ve got him as the second-best manager in Italy this year, after Italiano.
Even so, I’ll back the hosts in a 2-1 win, with goals coming from Krzysztof Piątek via a close-range finish and a towering Nikola Milenković header. Simeone, of course, is going to get the rete dell’ex. Expect Fiorentina to dominate possession and territory with Hellas threatening on the break. All in all, it should be a pretty good game to watch for the neutral and a fun one in the stands as the two sets of fans enjoy their gemellaggio.