After a deeply underwhelming win at Čukarički, Fiorentina get another chance to bounce back in Serie A in the ever-fiery Derby dell’Appennino against Bologna. In 154 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W59 D50 L45 mark, including W3 D5 L2 over their past 10, although the Felsinei won both matchups last year (for the first time since the 1989-1990 season), with the 1-2 loss at the Franchi proving particularly irritating.
The referee for this one is 42-year-old Fabio Maresca of Naples. In 4 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 25 yellow cards, which means he’s probably due for a weird decision or two, given his reputation. He’s also been a bit softer on racism than you might like in the past. Under 10 outings under his watch, Fiorentina is W4 D3 L3. Last we saw him was the 0-1 win over Inter Milan.
The match will be played on Sunday, 12 November 2023, at 1:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for more rain in the morning, but it may lighten or even end by kickoff. If you want something sunnier, though, let’s give it up for the visiting fans, who are bringing six busloads of supplies for victims of the flooding in Tuscany, which is a lovely and needed gesture and should lead to warmer relations with the Curva Fiesole than we’ve ever seen.
Following 3 straight losses, Fiorentina have dropped to 8th in the table with 17 points and desperately need a win to keep the Champions League dreams alive for next year, especially since 3 points could be enough to push them all the way up to 5th. It’s even more important, perhaps, to ensure that the team goes into the international break with at least a bit of momentum, especially given the struggles it has emerging from these layoffs.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have Michael Kayode or Lucas Beltrán, which means we’ll likely see Fabiano Parisi on the right and M’Bala Nzola up front. Nicolás González will be back, which is nice, but figuring out who’ll start opposite him is, as ever, mighty difficult; my money’s on Josip Brekalo because that makes the least sense. Alfred Duncan and Arthur should be the midfield, with Lucas Martínez Quarta returning to the back line. All in all, something like the usual, given the current injuries.
Bologna’s defensive record is quite good, but Motta’s insistence on playing out of the back does get them in trouble sometimes. They don’t always press high, but rather try to shepherd opponents into the wide areas and win the ball there. They’ve also looked a bit vulnerable at set pieces. While these descriptions do paint a picture of a rather fragile side, though, let’s be clear: Bologna’s defense has been quite good, and these guys deserve the excellent defensive record they’ve compiled.
It’s been quite a start to the season for the Oscar Mayers, who’ve shocked everyone on their way to 5th place with 19 points. They haven’t lost since the first day of the season, largely because, despite the 13th-fewest goals in the league, they boast the 3rd-best defensive record, conceding just 8 so far. They’ve held Juventus, Inter Milan, and Napoli to draws and beat Lazio last week, so this isn’t just a matter of beating up on bottom-half opposition. At this point, we have to accept that Bologna’s a legitimate European threat.
Manager Thiago Motta should have his full team to choose from. He plays a 4-2-3-1 with quick, technical players throughout the front 6. Riccardo Orsolini (4 goals), Joshua Zirkzee (3 goals, 2 assists), and Lewis Ferguson (3 goals, 2 assists) have drawn the headlines, but sporting director Marco di Vaio (woah) deserves credit for the excellent squad he’s assembled, with talent and depth all over the pitch.
The Felsinei are very patient in the buildup, tempting opponents forward, then releasing runners into space. Orsolini’s love of cutting in from the right onto his left is well-know, and Dan Ndoye (who tormented the Viola defense with Basel last year) is a burner on the other side. The real danger has been Zirkzee and Ferguson, though. The former is a fantastic passer who serves as the main creative hub despite his size, while the latter’s running from deep has been fantastic. They’re probably better than their goalscoring numbers and could be quite troublesome.
How to watch
TV: Check the international television listings but expect to stream this one.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are slight favorites with most bookmakers, probably due to being the home team. These sides’ respective recent trajectories, though, paint a different picture, and as we’ve seen, the Viola haven’t impressed as the hosts in local derbies of late. Were I a betting man (and I’m not), I’d say this one’s a real 50/50; this Bologna group is no joke.
Still, it feels like Fiorentina’s due a bit of good luck, so I’ll make it a 2-1 win for the good guys, with González and Nzola scoring for the hosts and Zirkzee for the visitors in a game that’s pretty entertaining for everyone and features at least 1 inexplicable refereeing decision. We deserve a Nico masterclass before the break, dammit, and I’m going to predict one even if it kills me.