After a typically irritating loss against AS Roma, Fiorentina return home for a very different sort of clash against Torino, whom they’ll face again in the Coppa Italia 11 days after this one. In 160 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W54 D54 L52 edge, including W5 D3 L2 over their past 10 meetings in Serie A, although their most recent clash ended in a shameful 4-0 loss.
The referee for this one is 34-year-old Federico Dionisi of L’Aquila. In 3 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 15 yellow cards; a cynic might say that means he’s due for some drama. Under his direction, Fiorentina have drawn 1 and lost 1. We most recently saw him in the 3-1 win over Sampdoria last year.
The match will be played on Saturday, 21 January 2023, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for for a cold, gray evening, with temperatures dipping below 4˚C/40˚F. At least it’s not likely to rain, but the Curva Fiesole will definitely have to find a way to keep itself warm.
Fiorentina has been as uneven as ever since the restart, producing a draw, a win, and a loss in the league to go with a victory in the Coppa Italia. That’s good enough to just barely put them on the left half of the table—which we’ve been told is the season objective—with 23 points, good for 10th place. With a full week between matches, the Viola simply have to stack up some wins before the Coppa Italia and the Conference League return, cluttering the schedule to a frantic degree.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CB Lucas Martínez Quarta, RB Dodô, CM Gaetano Castrovilli, or CF Arthur Cabral, although DM Rolando Mandragora should be fit for the bench. With so many injuries, the team basically picks itself, although there’ve been rumors that the mister might try Nicolás González at striker, given how disappointing Luka Jović has been. However, with the Argentina still not at full fitness, it might be an experiment for the final half hour more than a gambit from the opening kickoff.
Torino are a tough nut to crack, boasting a defense that combines discipline with talent. They’re masters of the little tactical foul that avoids a booking—they’re 1 of 3 Serie A teams yet to be red-carded—and they look to press fairly high up, trusting that back line to catch anything that gets through. They aren’t great in the air, so set pieces can leave them vulnerable, but Fiorentina aren’t likely to challenge them aerially. Instead, the plan will be, as ever, to get the wingers 1-v-1 against a slower opponent and hope they can cook, especially since the Granata will have a numerical advantage in the middle.
After a couple years fighting relegation due to owner Urbano Cairo’s incompetence, Torino has stabilized back into a solidly mid-table team. They sit in 9th with 23 points (yep, even with Fiorentina, so no pressure), although they’re winless in the league since the restart, including a draw to last-place Hellas Verona and a loss to Spezia last week. Of course, they did just knock Roma out of the Coppa Italia too, so it’s not like they’ve forgotten how to play the game, unless the game is not looking like idiots on their own social media.
Manager Ivan Jurić won’t have LB Valentino Lazaro, RB Ola Aina, CM Saša Lukić, or CF Pietro Pellegri, but he’ll play his usual 3-4-2-1. The danger doesn’t really come from CF Antonio Sanabria as the pair behind him: Nikola Vlasić and Aleksey Miranchuk have combined for 7 goals and 3 assists, which is more than half of the 18 (1 per match) the club’s scored on the year. As you’d expect from a Jurić side, though, they don’t need to score if they don’t concede. And with 20 goals conceded, they’re about as sound defensively as anyone.
Unlike his Verona teams, Jurić’s Torino keeps the ball very well, averaging the 5th-most possession in Serie A. They like to keep it at the back, tempting opponents to press, before going long to find the tridente in space, which is why they’ve been caught offside 40 times (3rd). While they don’t take a lot of shots, the ones they take tend to be at the end of well-worked moves and in dangerous positions; il Toro only needs one chance to decide a game.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are definitely the big favorites here, likely based on recent form and their being the home team. With both sides carrying a lot of injuries, though, the betting lines I’ve seen at most bookmakers feels high, especially since Jurić has a good record against Italiano. Both teams need a win here and, since they’re even in the table, both should be very motivated.
I’ll give Fiorentina a slight edge based on the advantage that the Franchi usually gives them and call it a 1-0, behind a second half penalty from González. Given Torino’s stinginess at the back, I’m expecting a low-scoring game with the ball spending a lot of time in the middle of the park as the Viola probe for weaknesses and the Granata spring the occasional heart-stopping counterattack.