Fresh off a deserved 2-1 win over Genk in the Conference League, Fiorentina return to Serie A play by welcoming last-place Salernitana to Tuscany. In their 16 previous meetings, the Viola own a W9 D3 L4 record, including a 2-1 triumph in this fixture last year that featured Luka Jović up with the Curva Fiesole.
The referee for this one is Paride Tremolada of Monza, who’ll be making just his 2nd-ever Serie A appearance; the first one involved 8 yellow cards and a penalty, so he’s clearly not afraid to get involved. He’s never worked with either of these senior sides, so we get to open a brand new file on him. Oh joy.
The match will be played Sunday, 3 December 2023, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a chilly afternoon with temperatures around 11°C/50°F, but the sun should start peeking out after several days of rain. In short, it’s perfect conditions for an early December game, and the full complement of Salernitana fans are going to enjoy it: they’ve bought every available away ticket and will likely be looking to make quite a racket.
This wobbly side simply isn’t a top 4 outfit, as some pundits have suggested, so 8th place in the league feels about right. Indeed, Fiorentina’s been quite poor in the league, losing 4 of its last 5 in Serie A. That means a win here is just about a necessity, although the club’s form in the Conference League—still undefeated in group play—means nobody’s spirits are drooping too much. Getting it done on the home front needs to become a major focus now that qualification to the knockout rounds is secured.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano should have his full side available, including Giacomo Bonaventura. Despite a fruitful dalliance with a 4-4-2 for the final half hour of that win over Genk, we should see a 4-2-3-1 from the start, likely with Lucas Beltrán up front. Michael Kayode should draw the start at fullback, with Arthur returning to the fold as well. The only real question is who plays opposite Nicolás González on the wing: Riccardo Sottil and Josip Brekalo will both hope to make the cut.
Salernitana will defend very deep, often with 9 or 10 in their own penalty box, looking to stay compact and pack the area. The good news is that the Viola have seen this approach frequently this year; the bad news is that they haven’t figured out how to beat it consistently. On the plus side, the Granata should make it a bit easier: they foul a lot and are bad in the air, so free kicks could prove decisive here, although it’d be a lot more encouraging to see some combination play between Jack and Beltrán through the middle.
It’s been a miserable season in Salerno. The Ippocampi sit in last place with just 8 points from 13 games, largely due to a league-worst 25 goals conceded. Their awful form resulted in an early sacking for old friend Paulo Sousa, and it seems to have maybe worked: Salernitana took their first win of the campaign last weekend over Lazio, which means the Campanians have harvested more league points in their past 5 outings than Fiorentina.
Manager Filippo Inzaghi won’t have GK Guillermo Ochoa or RW Loum Tchaouna, while Boulaye Dia is likely only fit enough for the bench. Super Pippo has alternated between a back 4 and a back 3 this year, but I’d bet he adds the extra defender here in a 3-4-2-1 system. The danger man is ageless wonder Antonio Candreva (3 goals, 1 assist), who often looks like the only real threat in the side, although Dia’s always a problem for Fiorentina, having scored 4 goals in just 2 appearances against the Viola.
Inzaghi will want his team to threaten from counterattacks and set pieces rather than trying to play through the midfield. Chukwubuikem Ikwuesi is a massive number 9 who’ll serve as a backboard for long passes and try to knock the ball down for Candreva and the other attacker (Grigoris Kastanos or Jovane Cabral) to run onto. It can work at times, certainly, but this attack has been pretty bad and it’ll be a disappointment to concede once and a catastrophe to concede more.
How to watch
TV: You’ll probably have to stream this one, but check the international television listings to be sure.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Despite Salernitana being in better domestic form at the moment, the oddsmakers have Fiorentina as massive favorites and it’s hard to argue that they’re off base here. We are, after all, talking about 8th place against 20th. More than that, the Viola look better from any perspective: they’re miles ahead in pretty much every statistical category and pass the eyeball test in a way the Granata don’t.
I’m going for a 3-1 win for the good guys. I think that Beltrán finally gets off the schneid, with Milenković adding one from a set piece and Nico completing the rout late on, while Dia continues his ridiculous record against Fiorentina and grabs a consolation. I’m also expecting a fair number of cards as the hosts dominate possession and force the visitors into a bunch of fouls in midfield to break up play.