This is it. Fiorentina have a simple brief: win the last game of the season, and they’ll get into Europe. Lose, and (barring Empoli beating Atalanta) spend an 8th straight season outside of continental competition. And, because the universe wouldn’t have it any other way, their opponent is Juventus. We all know the history between these two. Everything is on the line.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Daniele Chiffi of Padova. In 15 Serie a games this year, he’s handed out 56 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 4 penalties; he also served a suspension a couple of months ago for mistakes in a Milan derby. In 8 games under his eye, Fiorentina are W1 D3 L4; last we saw him was the 1-1 draw at Inter Milan, but he’s turned in some clangers in the past, so don’t be shocked if there’s some controversy from the man with the whistle.
The match will be played on Saturday, 21 May 2022, at 6:45 GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a gorgeous spring day with maybe a few clouds drifting over the hills and a temperature that’ll be warm everywhere in the city, but blisteringly hot inside the confines of the stadium. Expect an electric atmosphere.
Despite spending much of the year hovering around the European places, a late slide—4 losses from 5, including reversals to bottomfeeders Salernitana, Udinese, and Sampdoria—Fiorentina have set themselves up for their biggest match of the year on the final day. After a supremely anxious performance last time out at Sampdoria, the real question is whether the weight of what will doubtless be a frenzied Franchi will inspire this this squad or stress them out even more.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano should have access to his full squad except for CM Gaetano Castrovilli, although RB Álvaro Odriozola and LW Riccardo Sottil are fitness concerns. He’ll likely send out the same XI he did last week. If Odriozola’s fit, he’ll start, and the only other questions are on the wing (Jonathan Ikoné or Riccardo Saponara) and central midfield (Alfred Duncan or Youssef Maleh). Knowing Italiano, though, he may whip out a surprise to keep his opponents off balance.
Juve are going to park the bus, so for Fiorentina, it’s a matter of figuring out how to through them. Arthur Cabral likely won’t be able to bully Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt, so he’ll have to sharpen up his movement and try to attack them, particularly Bonucci, in space. As ever, though, it’s all about whether the wingers and Giacomo Bonaventura can find that moment of quality; if they can, the Viola will have a decent chance to win. If they can’t beat the stubborn deep block, it’ll be more of the futility to which we’ve grown all too accustomed.
Following a season without a trophy, many of the Juvenuts are questioning reality. Even so, the Bianconeri have wrapped up fourth place and thus a spot in the Champions League next year. That means, of course, that they’ve got nothing left to play for this year, not that teams competing for pride alone have been easy targets for Fiorentina recently. They’re winless in three straight (including the Coppa Italia final), including a defeat at Genoa and a last-gasp concession to draw against Lazio, so some players might be a little checked out.
Manager Max Allegri won’t have CM Arthur Melo, CM Weston McKennie, RW Federico Chiesa, or CF Paulo Dybala, while CM Denis Zakaria is a game-time decision. This being Allegri, it’ll probably be his typically dour 4-4-2, featuring Dušan Vlahović up front and Federico Bernardeschi on the wing, although he could switch to a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3 mid-game if he wants to add a wrinkle.
You know what to expect from Allegri. He’ll have his charges sit deep and narrow in two banks of four, mostly ignore possession, and attack via long balls to the strikers; he prioritizes discipline over creativity and wants nothing more than a 1-0 win, which means his team will suffer for extended periods of time but still compete well. With Moise Kean or Álvaro Morata and Vlahović up front, they’ll have enough pace to threaten in behind and enough size to grab a goal from a set piece. It’ll be a dour, attritional clash if the visitors get any say.
How to watch
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