A midweek loss in the Coppa Italia to Juventus (boo hiss) was disappointing but not surprising, and it means that Fiorentina need to get back on the horse right now if they want to maintain their precious momentum against lowly Salernitana. The Viola lead the all-time series with a W8 D2 L3 edge, although the reverse fixture—an imperious 4-0 triumph in Florence—was the first time they’d met since 2004.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Davide Massa of Imperia. In 11 Serie A games this year, he’s issued 56 yellow cards, 5 red cards, and 1 penalty; he’s traditionally been quick to point to the spot, so don’t be shocked if he adds another one. In 20 games under his watch, Fiorentina are W8 D7 L5; last we saw him was the 1-1 draw against Juventus last year, but he also ruined the 3-4 loss to Napoli a couple years ago by refusing to check VAR when Dries Mertens pulled an outrageous dive, and again when Mario Rui pulled Franck Ribery down in the box.
The match will be played on Sunday, 24 April 2022, at 10:30 AM GMT/6:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Arechi in Salerno. The forecast calls for an absolutely gorgeous day, with some clouds to soak up the direct sunlight and maybe a brief shower, but it should be absolutely gorgeous, especially since the arena’s right on the water at the eastern end of the Amalfi coast.
After spending much of the season at rock bottom (and just the second matchweek out of the relegation spots), Salernitana suddenly looks a bit frisky after back-to-back wins at Sampdoria and Udinese. Now in 18th and just a point behind Cagliari—and with 4 of their 6 remaining matches coming against bottom half sides—they’re going to dig in and give it absolutely everything to avoid the drop, so expect the Dumutru Effect to be on full display.
Manager and escape artist Davide Nicola won’t have LB Matteo Ruggeri, CM Joel Obi, CM Mamadou Coulibaly, RM Wajdi Kechrida, or CF Lys Mousset. The real interest, though, is who is available: Franck Ribery, Luca Ranieri, Luigi Sepe, Leonardo Capezzi, and Francesco di Tacchio are all former (and in Ranieri’s case, on-loan) Fiorentina players, and guys like Federico Fazio, Simone Verdi, and Diego Perotti give the team a very 2016 vibe. Despite all that, it’s Federico Bonazzoli (7 goals) and Milan Đurić (4 goals, 3 assists) who are the biggest threats.
As you’d expect, Salernitana are all about sitting deep and hitting on the break and through set pieces (only Fiorentina and AC Milan get fouled more often). Emil Bohinen and Éderson cover a lot of ground in the middle and get forward well, while Bonazzoli offers a decent aerial presence and pace and Ribery, as we know, remains tricky on the ball. The Granata have scored just 26 goals in 33 games, so it’s not like they’re an attacking powerhouse. The plan is basically to BeppeBall their way to a result here; with Nicola at the helm, they stand a better chance than you might otherwise give them.
While the proud but naive defeat in the Coppa may feel like the end of the world, let’s not forget that Fiorentina is the hottest team in Serie A right now. They’re undefeated in their past 6 and have won 3 on the trot, which leaves them in 7th place with 56 points (even with Lazio but behind on the head-to-head matchups) and just 2 points behind AS Roma and the coveted Europa League.
Because it can never be easy with this team, manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have DM Lucas Torreira or CM Gaetano Castrovilli, while RB Álvaro Odriozola and CM Giacomo Bonaventura are injury doubts as well. While the Jonathan Ikoné midfield experience didn’t work against Juve, he might still get the nod, with Sofyan Amrabat and one of Alfred Duncan and Youssef Maleh partnering him. Nikola Milenković should be ready to go at the back. The real question, as ever, is in attack: at striker, we could see Arthur Cabral or Krzysztof Piątek, while Ikoné, Riccardo Saponara, and Riccardo Sottil are all vying for a spot on the wing.
Salernitana boast Serie A’s worst defense, having conceded 69 (nice) times this year and kept just 2 clean sheets. They’re perhaps the most passive defense in the league too, prioritizing maintaining their shape instead of making any attempt to win the ball until it’s in their own penalty box; y’know, what Juventus did a few days ago. They’re good in the air and almost never foul, so the onus will be entirely on the Viola to break them down in open play. Lacking Castrovilli and Jack, that means the wingers will need to sparkle if we’re going to see a good result.
How to watch
TV: Nah. Check the full international television listings if you want to, but the answer is nah.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are as much the favorite in this one as they’ve been all season, and that’s exactly what’s worrying. Salernitana have a surprising amount of quality in the team and the sheer number of ex-Viola players should have everyone nervous. Add in their sudden surge, Nicola’s history of avoiding the drop, and the Dumutru Effect, and you’ve got the exact type of conditions that precede a face plant.
That said, Fiorentina are in superb form themselves and boast a considerable advantage in quality. Based on that, and the reverse fixture, I’m going to call this one a 0-2 win for the good guys, with Cabral bundling one in with trademark enthusiasm and Saponara adding a spectacular strike from distance, since he’s probably due for another one pretty soon. Expect the visitors to dominate territory and possession and hopefully make it a fun and stress-free watch for the fans. Please.