World Cup? Nah. Serie A? Ew. Conference League? Forget it. No, it’s time for Fiorentina to kick off its Coppa Italia campaign against Sampdoria. In 138 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W50 D49 L39 edge, including W4 D2 L4 over their past 10 meetings. The good guys already beat the Blucerchiati this year at the Luigi Ferraris by a score of 0-2, featuring the best team move of the year and also the worst refereeing decision. It’s also worth mentioning that these two met in this same spot in the Cup 5 years ago; it ended well.
The referee for this one is 35-year-old Daniele Paterna of Teramo. He’s handled 7 matches this year, all in the Coppa or Serie B (he’s done 3 in Serie A over the past couple years), and issued 32 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 2 penalties in them; per the stats, he’s always been pretty hands-off, so don’t expect him to get too involved. He’s never worked a Fiorentina match, so slakas will have to start a new dossier on him.
The match will be played Thursday, 12 January 2023, at 5:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a perfect day for a bit of calcio. There’s likely to be rain the night before, but the sun should be peeking out by the time they kick things off. Keep an eye out for club owner Rocco Commisso, too, who’ll be back in town after a stint in the US.
After edging past Sassuolo over the weekend, Fiorentina have climbed to 9th place with 23 points, 8 behind Atalanta and Conference League qualification, although 10 points from their past 5 league matches paints the picture of a team gathering momentum. With injuries stacking up as Serie A and Europe demand more and more from this squad, though, there’s a case to be made that perhaps the Coppa Italia isn’t much of a priority right now, although it may be this club’s best chance to add its first trophy since 2001.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano probably won’t have DM Rolando Mandragora, LW Riccardo Sottil, CF Arthur Cabral, or CF Luka Jović, while DM Sofyan Amrabat might be limited as well. It’ll be the usual 4-2-3-1, of course, but we could see some surprises in the lineup. Christian Kouamé will likely start up front if Cabral and Jović can’t go, while Nicolás González could return to the XI for the first time in forever. Farther back, we could see more of young Alessandro Bianco, while Lucas Martínez Quarta should return to the defense as well. And with Pietro Terracciano picking up a knock against the Neroverdi, we could see a senior team debut for goalkeeper Michele Cerofolini.
Samp are going to sit deep and narrow, inviting pressure, as so many of Fiorentina’s opponents do. They probably won’t start pressing beyond 25 yards out or so and will cede the wide areas, daring the Viola to either play through or cross into a very crowded penalty area, so finding a solution won’t be anything that Italiano hasn’t had to think through dozens of times before. The Viola should get chances, considering that the Blucerchiati have allowed a league-worst 30 goals this year; they’ll just need to convert those chances. And yes, that’s a chilling prospect for most fans.
There’s no nice way to say this, so I’ll be frank: Sampdoria have been really, really bad this year. It only took Marco Giampaolo a little more than a month to get sacked, and even that hasn’t really helped. The Blucerchiati languish in 19th place with 9 points and a -22 goal difference. While they knocked out Sassuolo last week, offering a glimmer of hope, they crashed back to earth with a loss to Napoli over the weekend. If they can’t turn it around soon, the 11 year streak of top flight calcio might be over. With a trip to Empoli looming on Monday, they could ignore the Coppa to focus on the league, although they might put all their chips on the cup instead if they’ve given up on Serie A survival.
Manager Dejan Stanković won’t have CB Omar Colley, RB Andrea Conti, RW Ignacio Pusetto, CF Manuel De Luca, or CF Fabio Quagliarella. He’s mostly favored a 3-4-1-2 shape this year but did go for a 4-4-2 last time against Fiorentina, so he may try to spring a surprise here. Expect Manolo Gabbiadini and Sam Lammers to start up front with Filip Đuričić behind them, although we could see transfer rumor darling Abdelhamid Sabiri as the 10 instead. I can’t, in good conscious, say that Samp have a primary threat: Gabbiadini and Đuričić have the clubhouse lead in goals with 2 apiece, but I guess that Tomasso Augello deserves the designation of primary danger with his superb deliveries from wide areas.
Stanković isn’t particularly interested in keeping the ball, having averaged 33.5% possession since the restart. What he wants to do is have his guys sit deep, soak up pressure, and attack directly, hoping to get the strikers to link up in the channels. To be frank, it hasn’t worked. This team has scored 13 goals in the league this year and just doesn’t ever really look like adding to that tally. This being Fiorentina, of course, a couple of catastrophic mistakes are all it takes, so everyone will need to focus, but the primary objective will be avoiding embarrassment more than actually doing anything special to stop these guys.
How to watch
TV: Check the full international television listings if you want, but the answer is no.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams. Most of the regular Serie A providers should have it.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
This has trap game written all over it for Fiorentina, no? Fresh off a dramatic win, missing a host of players, a big trip to AS Roma up just 3 days later, an opponent they’ve already beaten pretty easily this year, a heavily-rotated side: it’s a perfect storm of idiocy waiting to break all over the Franchi. Still, the oddsmakers have the hosts pretty heavily favored, and if I set aside my lived Viola experience, that’s probably smart. Sampdoria are also missing players and are one of the most wretched teams in Serie A.
I’m calling it a 2-0 win for the good guys, although I expect it to be a rock fight more than a controlled demolition. Rincón is always a decent bet to pick up cards (he was sent off against Napoli on Sunday) and Samp as a team have earned more bookings than anyone in Serie A, so a penalty goal isn’t a bad bet at all. That makes me think that Nico has a good shout to score from the spot early, putting Fiorentina in control, but I think it’ll take a late strike from Gaetano Castrovilli to really put the fixture to bed.