With 2 games left in the season and the results falling Fiorentina’s way, all they have to do to secure some sort of European competition next year is travel to Genoa and beat Sampdoria. In 136 previous meetings, the Viola are W49 D49 L38, although that drops to W3 D3 L4 in their past 10 Serie A matchups, including an impressive 3-1 win in the reverse fixture that featured a Josè Callejón goal.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Maurizio Mariani of Aprilia. In 13 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 65 yellow cards, 4 red cards, and 2 penalties. In 12 games under his watch, Fiorentina are W7 D2 L3; last we saw him was was the 2-3 win at Napoli, in which he was honestly pretty good.
The match will be played on Monday, 16 May 2022, at 4:30 PM GMT/12:30 PM EST at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. The forecast calls for a crisp, clear spring evening, cloudless and with no chance of rain or fog, which feels very out of character for Liguria but should be quite enjoyable anyways.
Sampdoria secured Serie A survival on Sunday after Inter Milan hammered Cagliari, which is probably a good thing, as the Blucerchiati won’t have the added edge that a relegation battle can offer a team. They’ve lost of their last 10 games—with their only wins in that span coming against Venezia and Genoa—so it’s not like they were digging deep to remain in the top flight; they’ve been fairly disappointing, honestly, and now they’re only playing for pride.
Manager Marco Giampaolo won’t have CM Stefano Sensi, CF Sebastian Giovinco, or CF Manolo Gabbiadini. While he’s experimented with a 4-3-3 formation, he’s likely to revert to his beloved 4-3-1-2 this time around, with Francesco Caputo and Fabio Quagliarella up front and Abdelhamid Sabiri in behind, with Antonio Candreva on the right of the midfield 3. The danger comes from Caputo (11 goals, 3 assists), who’s mostly a poacher getting in behind or meeting crosses, with Candreva (7 goals, 8 assists) the secondary threat and creative force. Old Man Quags, of course, is always a threat to score against Fiorentina, having notched 8 in his previous 8 clashes with the Viola.
Giampaolo has changed into a more route one, classic Italian tactician during his second stint in Liguria. The team doesn’t look to build much through the centerbacks and the fullbacks are happy to launch it as well, hoping that Caputo and company can attack knockdowns. Tomás Rincón will sit deep and break up play while Morten Thorsby will get into the box to add another threat from crossing situations. While they may not offer a lot of pace in behind outside the pugnacious Sabiri, Caputo and Quagliarella are cagey enough to capitalize if the defense loses them, too, especially since they’ll be 1-v-1 against their markers.
Despite all the stumbles (losses to Venezia and Salernitana, blowout losses to Torino and Udinese) Fiorentina will win a place in the Conference League if they can take all 3 points here. While it looked like they were collapsing at the worst moment, what with 3 straight losses to Salernitana, Udinese, and AC Milan, an unexpected win over AS Roma last week and some friendly results this week mean it’s really a matter of do or die for them now.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CM Gaetano Castrovilli or LW Riccardo Sottil but may have RB Álvaro Odriozola available to start. It’ll be the usual 4-3-3, with the Spaniard’s availability likely the main question mark. If he can’t go, Lorenzo Venuti will reprise his usual role, with the rest of the squad being pretty much written set in stone, aside from the usual quandary of Riccardo Saponara or Jonathan Ikoné on the left wing.
Samp don’t particularly want the ball, so they’ll likely park the bus and force Fiorentina to break them down. They’re good in the air and strong in the tackle but aren’t always great at stopping dribblers, which means that Nicolás González and Ikoné could wreak havoc. Samp have also left too much space between the lines at time, and as Rincón isn’t especially mobile, Saponara offers an interesting alternative. The plan will likely be to work the ball to one of the wingers isolated against a single defender, but changing the tempo and keeping it at the back to catch the hosts off guard may be a useful ploy as well.
How to watch
TV: Nah. Check the full international television listings to be sure, but nah.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The oddsmakers’ consensus seems to be that Fiorentina are firm favorites, even with their recent struggles, and that’s a position I’m willing to back. Fiorentina have a more talented squad and more to play for; those two factors are usually enough for a result. While Samp is a trickier customer for Fiorentina than you might expect—the Viola have specifically struggled against direct teams using a front two with another forward behind them—I think that the good guys will see this one through by a score of 0-2, with Arthur Cabral opening the scoring and González grabbing the insurance late on.