Fiorentina return from the international break and immediately go back on the road to Bergamo, where they’ll take on high-flying Atalanta. In 137 previous meetings, the Viola are W61 D43 L33 (those 61 victories are the most against any Serie A opponent), although that falls to W3 D3 L4 over their past 10 meetings in the league. On the other hand, the good guys won both fixtures last year, including a 1-2 triumph in Bergamo that left a certain manager as salty as ever.
The referee for this one is 43-year-old Massimiliano Irrati of Pistoia, who’s noted as one of the foremost VAR officials in the country (and a certified slakas favorite), although he’s in the crosshairs just as frequently for that role as for anything on the pitch. In 4 appearances this year, he’s handed out 30 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 1 penalty. In 11 matches under his guidance, Fiorentina are W4 D2 L5. We most recently saw him in last year’s 2-3 win over Bologna.
The match will be played on Sunday, 2 October 2022, at 5:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia (or the Gewiss Stadium, if you prefer) in Bergamo. The forecast calls for a really nice autumn day, warm and mostly sunny, with none of the rain and gloom that one might associate with fall in Lombardy.
With 7 games played, la Dea is sprinting out ahead as you’d expect: her 17 points are tied with Napoli for first, and she trails just on goal difference. Rumors of her demise, it seems, were greatly exaggerated, and you’d have to think that a year without European competition may be a boon to a relatively shallow roster. Indeed, Atalanta has reinvented itself. Instead of posing the most devastating attack in the peninsula, it boasts the stingiest defense, having conceded just 3 goals so far.
Manager and noted sourpuss Gian Piero Gasperini has a litany of injuries to work around: GK Juan Musso, CB Merih Demiral, CB Berat Djimsit, CB José Luis Palomino, CM Teun Koopmeiners, and CF Duván Zapata are all dealing with injuries. It’ll be the usual 3-4-2-1, of course, with Rasmus Højlund likely to start ahead of Luis Muriel up front. Koopmeiners’ 4 goals lead the team and nobody else has more than 1, so it’s a balanced attack. Also keep an eye out for old friend Marco Sportiello in goal.
We all know how a Gasperini team plays, and this will be more of the same. The wingbacks get forward, particularly Hateboer, looking to meet crosses at the back post. The central midfielders are reserved, while a mobile tridente looks to drift wide or between the lines, link up, and play quick combinations to cut out defenders. The difference is that Atalanta are much more direct than in previous years, eschewing possession in favor of getting the ball forward quickly. Expect them to do the same against a Viola side that excels at pressing, hoping to bypass that first line of defenders and attack against a disorganized rearguard.
It’s been a tough start to the season for a ballyhooed Fiorentina, who’ve slumped to 10th in the standings with just 9 points from 7 matches. While the solid win over Hellas Verona meant that this team went into the break with some momentum, this match does kick off another marathon stretch of 10 matches in a month; this kind of punishing schedule gives the team minimal time to train and figure out solutions to problems, so getting things right during the game is critical.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have RB Dodô or CM Gaetano Castrovilli, but has seen CB Nikola Milenković re-join the team in training, although the big Serbian may need another few days to work himself into condition. Jonathan Ikoné, suspended in the Conference League, will probably start on one wing, but the real question is up front, where a revelatory Christian Kouamé changed everything against the Mastini; he may get the nod ahead of Arthur Cabral and Luka Jović.
Although they don’t keep the ball like they used to, Atalanta still love to press, so expect a typically high line. Indeed, this will look, at times, like a contest of which team is better able to build from deep, so the Viola will need to be composed at the back. Tactically, the question is whether Fiorentina will opt for their usual patient, wing-based attack; against Verona, a more direct, central policy paid massive dividends, but la Dea presents an entirely different challenge. Italiano’s approach here could signal his intentions for the rest of the season, so keep a close eye on the possession stats and just how direct Fiorentina are.
How to watch
TV: Nah. Check the international television listings, but nah.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The oddsmakers have Atalanta as favorites here, but not by as much as you’d think. The Bergamaschi have only won at home once so far, have a full-blown injury crisis on their hands, and lost to Fiorentina 3 times last season. On the other side, though, the Viola have looked woeful and have absences of their own, so this one feels pretty tough to figure.
Because TMBGD is a place of eternal optimism, I’ll lean towards the visitors here with a 0-1 win, as Atalanta’s absences prove too much to overcome. It feels like we’re due a goal from the striker, so whichever of Cabral, Kouamé, or Jović starts has my backing. I’d expect a slightly frantic, disconnected game from two teams that aren’t sure if they want to control the ball or hit on the break, with a lot of fouls, a lot of cards, and a wild decision from Irrati to make Gasperini even grouchier than usual.