Fiorentina has one more game until Christmas, and it’s a trip north to take on Monza. In 12 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W7 D2 L3 mark, having failed to beat the Biancorossi since they climbed into Serie A for the first time last year. This fixture ended in a wildly irritating 3-2 defeat last year, with the good guys wasting an early 0-2 lead.
The referee for this one is 39-year-old Juan Luca Sacchi of Macerata. In 4 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 15 yellow cards and 3 penalties. He was suspended earlier this year for refusing to shake the hand of a female assistant ref, too, so he’s probably some kind of scumbag. Under his watch, Fiorentina holds a W2 L3 record. Funnily enough, last time we saw him was this fixture last year.
The match will be played Friday, 22 December 2023, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Stadio Brianteo in Monza. The forecast calls for a grey day with temperatures around 10°C/50°F. It’s going to be very windy, though, which could impact play considerably. Still, it should be pretty nice for the 1100 traveling fans, who should comprise nearly 7% of the Brianteo’s capacity.
10th place with 21 points and a -1 goal difference may not seem like much, but mid-table anonymity is quite an accomplishment for Monza, given that this is the club’s second-ever season in Serie A. While 5 points from its past 5 outings may sound like a slide, the defeats came at AC Milan and to Juventus; the Biancorossi will be fine. Their real problem is that they’ll never be a fun, plucky underdog, given that Silvio Berlusconi was the one to pump in the cash to bring them to the top flight and his patina of filth may never wash off.
Manager Raffaele Palladino won’t have Papu Gómez or Gianluca Caprari and Pablo Marí may not be fit, but that won’t change much. He’ll use his typical 3-4-2-1 formation featuring a bunch of Serie A veterans who you didn’t realize were playing here: Armando Izzo, Danilo D’Ambrosio, Matteo Pessina, and Roberto Gagliardini have all washed ashore to rekindle their careers. The star man, though, is attacking midfielder Andrea Colpani (6 goals), whose exploits have seen him earn an Italy call.
Palladino’s done an excellent job as a tactician. Monza keep the ball really well and build from deep, looking to keep the ball in the first two thirds. They’re a bit like Fiorentina last year, really, as they attempt to impose control on the game via possession and tend to carry the ball into space more than pass it. They don’t favor one side more than the other and tend to look for low crosses and cutbacks from wide, but they’re more about quick passing interchanges between the lines and finding the third man running through.
Currently riding a 6-match unbeaten run across all competitions, Fiorentina sure seems to be firing on all cylinders, although some segments of the fanbase remain as pessimistic as ever. That feels a bit off for a team in 6th (even with Napoli on 27 points) and surging, but there are a few cracks that may need work in the transfer market next month, as evidenced by some very narrow escapes over the past month (e.g., advancing on penalties in the Coppa Italia over Parma).
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have Lucas Martínez Quarta, Giacomo Bonaventura, or Nicolás González. The main question, then, is who plays in the number 10 spot: Lucas Beltrán or Antoní Barák. Jonathan Ikoné should replace Nico on the right with Riccardo Sottil favored over Christian Kouamé on the left. The midfield and defense should be the usual suspects.
Monza doesn’t press at a particularly high tempo so we could see a bit more patience than we have recently in the buildup. Despite playing three at the back, they’re not particularly good in the air, so route one may actually be a useful approach here, allowing Nzola and/or Kouamé to win knockdowns and flick-ons for the other attackers. In light of that deficiency, they’ve been vulnerable to crosses and at set pieces as well. While Italiano probably won’t go full Sam Allardyce here—he always wants to win the possession battle—he may be willing to undo another button and go for it here.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The bookmakers have Fiorentina as slight favorites, which feels about right, given the circumstances. They’re on a much better run and higher in the table, but also away from home and dealing with a lot of major absences. As both teams have looked better going forward than defending, I’d take the over on 1.5 goals too.
To that end, I’ll take the chalk and back the Viola to grab a 1-2 away win, with goals from Kouamé and Nikola Milenković for the good guys and Dany Mota for the bad guys. I’m also expecting a surprisingly open game that’s pretty good for the neutral, even if it makes us a little more nervous than we’d like.