This ramshackle ghost of Fiorentina past mopes back to Florence after crashing and burning in Istanbul for a clash against Hellas Verona. In 87 previous meetings, the Viola are W37 D24 L17, including a mark of W3 D5 L2 over their past 10 Serie A meetings. This tie ended in a 1-1 draw last year that left the hosts ruing their missed opportunities, although you get the sense that they’d bite your hand off for a point this time around.
The referee for this one is 37-year-old Antonio Rapuano of Rimini. In 2 appearances this year, he’s handed out 9 yellow cards and a penalty; he’s historically been pretty quick with the red card and the PKs, so don’t be shocked if he gets in on this. The only Fiorentina game he’s handled was last year’s 3-0 romp over Cagliari, which featured a really soft handball penalty in favor of the good guys.
The match will be played on Sunday, 18 September 2022, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a glorious autumn day, clear and warm and a little bit breezy, but you worry that, even with the gorgeous conditions, the atmosphere in the stadium could be quite a bit warmer than usual. And it won’t be pointed at the Scaligers, with whom the home support enjoy a gemellaggio.
It’s a bad time to be a Fiorentina fan, as the team has scored just 3 goals in its past 8 outings, failing to win any of them. Two humiliating defeats in a row—at Bologna and Başakşehir—mean that all the good vibes that came with last season’s scrappy, hard-charging group of unfancied pieces have disintegrated into a mess of sighs and doddering, toothless performances. It’s bad, yall.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano is missing 9 senior players, including his 3 top central defenders, his rightback, his number 10, and his starting wingers. That means we’ll probably see Luca Ranieri join Sofyan Amrabat in the heart of defense with Lorenzo Venuti on the right and Cristiano Biraghi the only regular back there. Antonín Barák will probably slot back into midfield, and recently-returned Alfred Duncan could join him, although Giacomo Bonaventura may get the nod again. Up front, Luka Jović and Christian Kouamé should return to the XI.
Hellas have been surprisingly proactive without the ball, pressing all over the pitch; that may be what’s wrong with their defense, as they don’t look entirely suited to the approach. As Fiorentina have looked okay against sides that hold a high line, they could find a lot more joy than they have recently, although the Mastini may change approaches and drop into a deep block here. Expect the visitors to foul a lot, too, both because they lead the league fouls and because Fiorentina don’t have many aerial threats to attack set pieces.
As bad as Fiorentina have been this year, Verona have somehow been even worse. They’re also on a single win en route to 5 points from 6 matches, largely because the defense has shipped 11 goals, which is the 2nd-worst record in Serie A. While they’re probably not quite as bad as all that, this is still a team that might struggle to stay up, so the Viola need to get some points here or risk falling into their own relegation crisis in a few months.
Manager Gabriele Cioffi (a Florence native) won’t have CB Federico Ceccherini or CM Miguel Veloso. He’s favored a 3-5-2 with a couple of real strikers up front in the hulking Thomas Henry and the pacy Kevin Lasagna, breaking with the Mastini setup of years past under Ivan Jurić and Igor Tudor. Henry’s the only player on more than one goal, so I suppose he’s the one to watch.
Verona average just 45% possession, so don’t expect them to keep the ball. They’ll probably attack quite directly, bypassing the midfield in favor of attacking Fiorentina’s makeshift defense as quickly as possible, especially through the channels and down the wings, and they’ll look to get the ball into the area and see if Ranieri and Amrabat fancy a bunch of aerial battles with Henry. They’ll also relish their chances from set pieces, given the size disparity.
How to watch
TV: Check the international television listings, but nope.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The oddsmakers somehow have the hosts as favorites in this, which really makes you wonder who sets these lines and whether or not they watch any of the games; it’s hard to imagine any team being as feckless as Fiorentina over the past month. Combine the form with the current injuries and you’d have to think that coming away with a point would be a triumph for Italiano and company.
Still, TMBGD is a pathologically optimistic place (you may have noticed that every single score prediction has Fiorentina winning, no matter what), so let’s not break with tradition now. With two really poor defenses, there could be more goals in this one than most people predict. I’ll go with a nigh-on unwatchable 2-1 win for the good guys, with Jović, Kouamé, and Henry the goalscorers, in a game that has so many fouls and so many mistakes and so many bad vibes. That’s probably the best case scenario, though, so let’s cross our fingers, light some candles, and start bargaining with the spirits.