Fiorentina are getting close to the international break and a badly needed rest, but first have the small matter of a trip to Naples to face the reigning champions. In 170 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W59 D60 L61 mark, including W2 D2 L6 in their past 10 Serie A meetings. This fixture ended in a 1-0 win for Napoli last year after Victor Osimhen got his penalty at the second time of asking.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Federico La Penna of Rome. In 3 appearances this year, he’s handed out 15 yellow cards and a penalty, which are more or less in line with his career numbers. In 7 games under his direction, Fiorentina are W3 D3 L2. Last we saw him was the 0-3 win over Hellas Verona last year. You remember the one: it was the Biraghi goal from beyond midfield.
The match will be played on Sunday, 8 October 2023, at 6:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Diego Maradona in Naples. The forecast calls for another warm evening with significant humidity, which could lead to a lower pace and some sloppy mistakes from both sides coming off mid-week ties.
The scudetto holders haven’t had the best start to their followup campaign but are still sitting 3rd place with 14 points. They’ve won 2 straight in the league, scoring 8 and conceding 1, but were winless in the 3 before that, including draws to Genoa and Bologna. They’re also coming off a tough loss to Real Madrid on Tuesday, which does give them 2 more days of rest than Fiorentina.
Manager Rudi Garcia should have his full squad available. He’ll use the usual 4-3-3 and probably won’t rotate all that heavily, so expect to see all the usual suspects. The dangerman is, of course, Victor Osimhen (5 goals), with Matteo Politano (3 goals, 1 assist), Piotr Zieliński (2 goals, 2 assists), and Kvhicha Kvaratshkelia (1 goal, 3 assists) operating in support.
Despite the departure of Luciano Spalletti, Napoli are still the 2nd-highest scoring side in Serie A this year (16 goals) and have looked quite good going forward. Even under Garcia, this is still the usual Partenopei: fantastic on the ball, equally capable of building up play from deep as going long, and full of technical ability all over the pitch. They average more possession than anyone in Serie A so expect them win that battle. They’re good at set pieces but don’t cross much, instead ticking the ball around the box until they find space. In short, this attack is about as good as any in the world right now, and stopping it will require outstanding performances and probably some luck.
Despite some frustrations in Europe, Fiorentina is flying high in Serie A, reaching 5th place after 7 matches and riding a 6-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. The Viola have taken 10 points from their past 5 league games and look like they could be the real deal, garnering praise from around Italy even as supporters worry about some pretty obvious cracks.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano doesn’t have any major injury concerns—M’Bala Nzola is expected to be ready—but has said he’ll likely rest a bunch of regulars, including Nicolás González. That could lead to a very different XI than we’re used to seeing, with the recently recovered duo of Jonathan Ikoné and Antonín Barák likely to show up. The real question is at rightback, where Michael Kayode may need a break, so don’t be shocked to see Fabiano Parisi or Cristiano Biraghi on the “wrong” side.
Napoli have allowed the fewest shots against but haven’t reached the levels they did last year, looking relatively vulnerable on the break, particularly against skillful dribblers (baw gawd, that’s #ChaosJonny’s music). Fiorentina will probably sit deeper than usual and look to play more on the break, given the lack of rest, squad rotation, setting, and relative talent gap, but should still be able to offer some control via Arthur.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
To no one’s surprise, Napoli are favored pretty heavily by the bookmakers. Playing at home against a team lower in the table and that will rotate heavily due to having 2 fewer days to rest key players is obvious enough even without the sobering knowledge that the Partenopei probably have a better squad top to bottom.
That said, Fiorentina have played them surprisingly tough since Italiano took over, posting a W2 L2 D1 in that time and winning the goal difference (remember that wild 2-5 in the Coppa Italia?) and could pose some problems, especially since Napoli tend to throw numbers forward, which plays right into the Viola hands. Were I a betting man, I’d put money on the hosts, but in TMBGD, I’ll call an astonishing 1-2 upset. Let’s make it extra wild and say that Lucas Beltrán notches a brace off the bench.