Fresh off a good win over Torino in the Coppa Italia, a vaguely-resurgent Fiorentina prepares for the ever-feisty Derby dell’Appennino against Bologna. In 153 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W59 D50 L44 edge, including W4 D5 L1 in their past 10 meetings. In the reverse fixture, the Felsinei earned their first win since 2013 via a 2-1 meltdown. But don’t worry: Fiorentina haven’t lost to Bologna in Florence since 2010, and wait, why am I being dragged off stage?
The referee for this one is 38-year-old Luca Pairetto of Turin. In 6 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 33 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 3 penalties; the constantly-embattled official has a well-earned reputation for head-scratching decisions and averages a PK better than every other match. In 5 matches under his watch, Fiorentina are W2 D2 L1. Last we saw him was the 3-1 season-opening loss to AS Roma last year, in which he did rather make a mess of things.
The match will be played on Sunday, 2 February 2023, at 5:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a surprisingly warm winter day: temperatures around 12˚C/50˚F, with the sun likely peeking through the gathering clouds. Should be lovely.
It’s been a weird 2023 for Fiorentina. The club has picked up just 5 points from 5 Serie A matches but has also knocked Sampdoria and Torino out of the Coppa Italia, leaving just 2 opponents—Cremonese and Inter Milan or Juventus—from its first major silverware since 2001. For a club that’s scuffling along in 12th place with 24 goals and also has the Conference League to worry about, maybe the domestic cup ought to be the focus.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CM Gaetano Castrovilli or LW Riccardo Sottil but welcomes DM Sofyan Amrabat, who won’t miss time despite a broken nose. It’ll be the usual 4-2-3-1, with the only real questions arising in goal, where new signing Salvatore Sirigu will hope to unseat Pietro Terracciano, and in the attack. Luka Jović should get the nod over Arthur Cabral, who’s still working back to full fitness, while Jonathan Ikoné probably has the edge over Christian Kouamé opposite Nicolás González.
Over the past few months, Bologna have been a very press-heavy side and should look to sit in a mid block here rather than dropping all the way back. That means Fiorentina should have opportunities to play through them and get the wingers in space, although they’ll need to be sharp to get around a pretty well-organized defense. Bologna have struggled to defend set pieces, so that’s a possible area to attack as well.
With 7 points from their 5 outings since the restart, Bologna have climbed to 9th in the table with 26; for a side with no European ambition, one reeling from sacking a manager and losing a beloved figure, it’s a good achievement. Indeed, they’ve won 6 of their past 10, so it seems that the shakeup has really sorted them out.
Manager Thiago Motta won’t have CB Kevin Bonifazi, RB Lorenzo di Silvestri, DM Gary Medel, LW Nicola Sansone, or CF Marko Arnautović, leaving him with limited options. He’ll mirror Fiorentina’s 4-2-3-1, so the individual matchups should be pretty clear. The threat comes from RW Riccardo Orsolini (4 goals, 2 assists) and LW Musa Barrow (very, very quick), with Roberto Soriano pulling the strings.
With Joshua Zirkzee or Barrow leading the line rather than Arnautović, Motta will probably look to attack the space in behind, both with long passes and with quick, vertical combinations to draw the Fiorentina defense out. He mostly favors keeping the ball on the carpet and wants to win the possession battle but may be happier to sit back a bit here, as that’ll open space for his quick forwards to combine on the break.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina is heavily favored here, and I won’t lie: I think the betting houses are a little too bullish. Sure, the Viola will have home field advantage and Bologna are missing a bunch of their top players, but this is a local derby and the Oscar-Meyers already beat the good guys once this year. They’re probably in better form in the league, too. This definitely feels pretty finely balanced.
Still, because TMBGD always picks Fiorentina, no matter what, I’ll say that Fiorentina take home a 2-1 victory in a game that starts at a frantic tempo but slows down around the hour mark as both sides run out of gas, leading to a rather open affair for the final 30 minutes. Goals from Nico González (from a penalty?) and Cabral, with Barrow on the scoresheet for the visitors.