Fresh off a controlled 1-0 demolition of Venezia, Fiorentina heads north for perhaps the biggest game of the season: the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal against Juventus. As you may recall, the first leg ended 0-1 to the bad guys despite the Viola outplaying them after a heartbreaking Lorenzo Venuti own goal at the death. And, for those wondering, Fiorentina would automatically qualify for the Europa League if they win the Coppa. If they don’t, they’ll need to finish 6th.
The referee for this one is 44-year-old Daniele Doveri of Rome, who’s yet to work a Coppa game this year. In 13 Serie A games, he’s handed out 53 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 6 penalties. In 25 previous outings under his watch, the Viola are W14 D3 L8; last we saw him was the 1-0 win over Atalanta, in which he was just fine.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 20 April 2022, at 7:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST, at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. The forecast calls for pretty miserable conditions, frankly, not that you’d expect anything different in such a forsaken city: expect cold temperatures and steady rain. Will those be enough to dampen the traveling support? Hahahaha no.
With 10 points from their past 5 matches, it seems like the evil empire is waking up just in time to shoulder its way into the Champions League places again, opening up a 5 point gap over 5th-place AS Roma. Despite the facade of competence, though, there are plenty of cracks under the veneer: a draw against 9-man Bologna last Saturday only arrived in the 5th minute of stoppage time, for example, and the Bianconeri have been grinding out results rather than overpowering opponents.
Manager Max Allegri faces a midfield crisis as Weston McKennie and Manuel Locatelli are out, while Arthur Melo is also a doubt. Since Allegri is generally quite reactive with his formations, expect a 4-3-3 to match Fiorentina, even if that means that Juan Cuadrado or Danilo are drafted into the middle.
Even at home, expect Allegri to happily grind out a result. Juve will likely sit deep and try to hit on the break through Paulo Dybala and Dušan Vlahović; if those two, along with Álvaro Morata’s running in behind, can’t find the breakthrough via rapid counterattacks, their team should mostly rely on set pieces or moments of individual brilliance. With a lead from the first leg (and the away goals rule still in full effect), expect the Bianoneri to ride that approach all the way.
Fiorentina has been the best team in Serie A since March, winning 5 and drawing 1 as they surge up the table and are suddenly poised to snare a European qualification spot. This climb in the standings flies in the face of predictions that they’d slump after selling their star performer in January and emphasizes how they’ve changed on the fly: after averaging 1.71 points per game while a certain Serbian was on the roster, they’ve averaged 2 per game without him.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CM Gaetano Castrovilli and will likely start with CM Giacomo Bonaventura from the bench, so Youssef Maleh and Alfred Duncan will likely man the engine room. Álvaro Odriozola should return to the XI as well, so the real question is up front; perhaps the tridente Nicolás González, Arthur Cabral, and Jonathan Ikoné showed enough against Venezia to get another run out together, but Italiano may look to introduce Krzysztof Piątek or Riccardo Saponara here as well.
Likely facing a deep block and wary of quick counterattacks, Fiorentina may start out a bit cautiously—at least, after an initial attempt to impose themselves—which could lead to a slightly sterile match. Lacking Castrovilli’s quality in the middle, they’ll likely focus on getting the ball to their wingers as quickly as possible and hoping that one of them can create some magic, but maintaining a balance that won’t leave them too open on the break will be a tricky and intellectually fascinating exercise.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The Juventus are largely favorites in this one, and it’s fairly clear to see why. They’re higher in the table, at home, and the Coppa is their only chance of silverware this year. With an obscenely expensive squad, that should provide enough motivation even without troll-face master Allegri’s exhortations.
However (and please understand that I am grasping at straws), Fiorentina deserve this; not only does karmic retribution favor them, but they’re in better form and should rally around Tanino’s absence. That’s why I’m calling it a shock 1-2 win, with Nico González and Arthur Cabral on the scoresheet for the good guys, and some enormous Serbian human pulling one back for the bad guys. After all, Florence deserves a trophy. This is a better chance than any to bring it home.