After months of rumors, speculation, and frustration, we finally get our payoff: Fiorentina kicks off its Serie A campaign at home against Cremonese. In 14 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W6 D7 L1 edge, although they haven’t met since a scoreless draw in 1996, the last time the Grigiorossi were in Serie A. That lone defeat, by the way, was a 6-0 thumping in 1929, Fiorentina’s debut in the Divisione Nazionale.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Juan Luca Sacchi of Macerata. In 31 Serie A matches, he’s handed out 125 yellow cards, 5 red cards, and 11 penalties. He’s usually loath to stop play and prefers to let the teams sort it out themselves, but he’s also well-known for his willingness to get in players’ faces if they approach him. Under his watch, Fiorentina has won 1 and lost 2; we most recently saw him in the 1-0 win over Bologna last year.
The match will be played on Sunday, 14 August 2022, at 4:30 PM GMT/12:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. Expect a gorgeous summer day, clear and hot (no, but like, over 31C/85F), with the sun beating down on a raucous crowd that’s more than ready to support a European contender. Should be a sweaty, enjoyable party.
While the preseason wasn’t particularly inspiring, there’s still plenty to like about this edition of the Viola. They’re full of talent, having added some fascinating pieces all over the roster, and they’re likely not done yet. They’ve also hung onto Nikola Milenković, which is very, very exciting. The only shadow right now is that they face FC Twente in the Conference League on Thursday, but everyone’s legs should be fresh enough this early in the year that it’s not too much of a concern.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CM Gaetano Castrovilli, but you already knew that. Everyone else should be ready to go, including LW Nicolás González, who picked up a knock in the friendly against Real Betis but has recovered in time. Most of the positions are set, with the only questions coming in central midfield (Youssef Maleh or Alfred Duncan) and right wing (Riccardo Sottil, Riccardo Saponara, or Jonathan Ikoné). If nothing else, this should give us a sense of who Cousin Vinnie views as a starter.
Fiorentina will probably dominate possession and position, so it’s a matter of making it count. Cremonese employ a group of big, rugged defenders, so high balls into the box might not be the best bet. Instead, expect the Viola to try to get to the byline and hit low balls and cutbacks into the box, as that’s been the approach throughout the preseason. It’d be nice to see some variation, though, and the mezzale may need to break into the penalty area to help overload what will doubtless be a very deep defense.
After finishing 2nd in Serie B last year, the Grigiorossi are back in Serie A for the first time since 1996. That 17 year sojourn saw them drop all the way down to Serie C, but they’ve built well over the past couple seasons and ended up just 2 points behind Lecce to finish second last year, earning an automatic promotion. You can expect that the players and the fans will be plenty amped up for their first top tier match in almost two decades, especially after they knocked Ternana out of the Coppa Italia earlier this week.
Manager Massimiliano Alvini, who’s never coached in the top flight, usually opts for a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2. Record signing Cyriel Dessers, who just joined from Genk for €6.5 million, will likely start up front, displacing either the speedy David Okereke or the bruising Frank Tsadjout. Lazio midfielder Gonzálo Escalante, another new signing, should move into one of the midfield spots. Really, the XI is tough to predict with so many new faces in the dressing room, but there are a couple of familiar ones there as well in ex-Viola players Samuele di Carmine and Jaime Báez.
Cremonese will likely play very deep and try to hit on the break with their speed up front, as Dessers and Okereke are both quite quick, and the latter had some dangerous moments against this defense last year with Venezia. The wingbacks will likely play rather conservatively, so it’ll be up to the forwards and maybe Luca Zannimacchia, the most attacking of the midfielders, to create a threat.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are massive favorites in all the betting houses for a reason: they’re a team that qualified for Europe last year playing at home against a recently-promoted side that hasn’t spent that much in the mercato. Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
That’s why I’m predicting a 3-0 win to the good guys. Jović has an excellent chance to hit the ground running and open his account, and I like Riccardo Sottil and Giacomo Bonaventura to chip in as well. The Viola will likely see at least 60% of possession and outshoot the Grigiorossi by a wide margin, although they visitors should have at least one good opportunity on the break. Still, it’s hard to expect anything but a win in this one. And, if you’re a Fiorentina fan, that is a sentence that should set your teeth to chattering.