Fiorentina bid arrivaderci to a tumultuous 2023 with one last game, welcoming Torino to the Franchi. In 163 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W55 D55 L53 mark, including a symmetrical W3 D4 L3 over their past 10 league meetings. This fixture last year ended in an embarrassing 0-1 loss, handing il Toro its first win in Florence since 1976.
The referee for this one is 40-year-old Federico La Penna of Rome. In 6 appearances this year, he’s handed out 32 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 1 penalty, which are all about in line with his career averages. In 8 matches under his watch, Fiorentina are W4 D2 L2. Last we saw him was the big 1-3 win over Napoli earlier this year.
The match will be played Friday, 29 December 2023, at 4:30 PM GMT/11:30 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a warmer day than you’d expect this time of year with temperatures hovering around 11°C/53°F. Despite the clouds and wind, there shouldn’t be any precipitation, but the well-documented enmity between the owners of these two clubs should keep things plenty warm regardless of the conditions.
Fiorentina is poised to enter the new year on a high note, rattling off 7 wins, 2 draws, and a loss in its last 10 outings across all competitions. That impressive run has helped propel the club to 30 points, good for 5th in Serie A, and just a point behind Bologna (!) and a Champions League spot; it almost feels like the halcyon days of the Sette Sorelle, at least if you squint hard enough.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have Nicolás González but should have everyone else. That means we could see Lucas Martínez Quarta return to the defense, likely at the expense of Luca Ranieri. Jonathan Ikoné should start on the right wing, with Riccardo Sottil possibly fit enough to feature opposite. If not, Christian Kouamé will get the nod. The in-form Lucas Beltrán is also working back from a knock but should be ready to go, although it’s a toss up between him and M’Bala Nzola up front. The good news is that Giacomo Bonaventura is also ready to go.
Torino is the exact type of team that gives Fiorentina trouble: a deep, stubborn, and disciplined defensive block, willing to suffer for long stretches of time. Especially with González absent, that’ll mean finding ways through. Ricardo Rodríguez and Adrian Tameze aren’t the most aerially dominant defenders but are fairly quick, so bombardment from the wide areas may actually be a useful approach here. Otherwise, we’ll all be holding our breath to see if Jack can produce some magic after a layoff. If not, it could be a long and unpleasant afternoon.
It’s been a pretty average season for one of Serie A’s most average clubs over the past few decades. Torino sit 10th place with 24 points and are on a nice run of their own, picking up 8 points from their past 4 matches. They’ve only beaten one team above them in the table this season (a 3-0 at home over Atalanta a couple weeks ago) and have just two wins away from home all year. This is exactly the sort of game Fiorentina has to win to keep its ambitions going, and that should terrify all of us.
Manager Ivan Jurić won’t have Per Schuurs or Ange N’Guessan, but that won’t change much for him. We all know how Jurić teams work by now: a 3-4-2-1 that’s excellent defensively and plays direct. The danger man is the newly-arrived Duván Zapata (4 goals, 1 assist), who’s the same handful he was with la Dea, but there’s a fair amount of talent through the roster, including McMike favorite Samuele Ricci directing things from deep in midfield.
Torino will sit deep, soak up pressure, and look for the tridente to combine on quick attacks down the wings or through the channels rather than building from deep or recycling possession. They don’t tend to create a lot of chances but take advantage when they do, so the Viola defense needs to be dialed in for all 90 minutes, as the Granata will take advantage of any lapse in focus.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The bookmakers have Fiorentina favored, but not by as much as you might think. Perhaps they’re worried that the hosts won’t have what it takes to break down a stubborn defense with Nico González, but we’ve seen the Viola manage in his absence before. I’d expect the number to tilt a bit more over the next day or two, although this looks like a pretty low-scoring match, which inevitably leads to more variance.
I’ll take the good guys with a 1-0 win courtesy of Sr. Jack “Only Scores Bangers” Bonaventura. Fiorentina should dominate possession and territory but struggle to break down a stubborn Torino defense, leading to a pretty stodgy game that only occasionally sparkles to life. I wouldn’t even count on any fireworks from La Penna, who’s usually pretty staid, and with two teams that rank in the bottom half of yellow cards received, he may not have too much to do.