After beating Inter Milan at the San Siro for the first time in 8 years, Fiorentina’s winning streak is rumbling along nicely. Next up is an entirely different proposition: a trip to Cremonese for the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal against Cremonese. The Viola have only lost once to the Grigirossi (W8 D10 L1) and won both their meetings this season, including a 0-2 triumph in Cremona less than a month ago.
The referee for this one is 41-year-old Maurizio Mariani of Aprilia. In 10 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 43 yellow cards and 2 penalties; he’s generally quite laissez faire in his approach, so expect the players to really push the envelope in terms of what they can get away with. Under his direction, Fiorentina W7 D2 L5; last we saw him was the 1-0 defeat at Udinese earlier this year, with a goal coming from what, sure enough, looked like a foul that he didn’t call.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 5 April 2023, at 7:00 PM GST/2:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Giovanni Zini in Cremona. The forecast calls for a nippy spring evening under the floodlights and stars. Expect a raucous atmosphere, too, as the Grigiorossi are likely getting relegated this year and this is undoubtedly the high point of their season.
As previously mentioned, it’s been a rude welcome back to Serie A for Cremonese, which hadn’t made it to the top flight since 1995-1996. The Violini have won just a single league match all year (over AS Roma of all teams) and are in last place with 13 points, a full dozen from safety. They’re going right back down, which means that this Coppa Italia dream is all the more important for them. To get here, they knocked out Ternana, Modena, Napoli (on penalties), and Roma; they’re a different outfit entirely in the tournament.
Manager Davide Ballardini probably won’t have CB Vlad Chiricheș, CB Alex Ferrari, or CF David Okereke. He’ll play his usual 3-5-2, likely with Franck Tsadjout and Cyriel Dessers up front and Fiorentina loanee Marco Benassi in midfield. With relegation assured, he’ll prioritize this match and send out his best XI, although that hasn’t really done much all year. Keep an eye out for left wingback Emanuele Valeri as well, and expect a cameo from Daniele Ciofani, who’s scored 4 of his 6 goals term off the bench.
Cremonese are going to sit very deep and look to counter at speed, attacking the space in behind Fiorentina’s defense; these guys aren’t going to even pretend to keep the ball or build from the back. Dessers is pretty quick and Tsadjout is pretty strong, so expect some classic big man-little man linkup. The midfielders won’t generally venture too far from the defense and the wingbacks mostly stay wide and cross. Ballardini’s approach is one we’ve all seen lower-half sides employ in Italy since time immemorial. You know what it looks like.
5 straight wins in Serie A. 8 straight wins in all competitions. 10 straight unbeaten. It’s safe to say that Fiorentina is peaking at the exact right part of the season, although it would’ve been nice to see this team play so well for more than just the final stretch. Still, we’re talking about Serie A’s most in-form team at the moment, and it’s hard not to be excited. Of course, a trip to Cremona is exactly the banana peel that you worry about a confident group slipping on.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano will have his full squad available, minus GK Salvatore Sirigu. He’ll bring Nikola Milenković, Sofyan Amrabat, and Nicolás González back into the XI. The real question is how he’ll line up his midfield: it’ll likely be a double pivot with Amrabat and Rolando Mandragora behind one of Antonín Barák, Giacomo Bonaventura, or Gaetano Castrovilli, although Italiano could opt to leave Amrabat alone in the holding role with 2 of the aforementioned 3 in front of him.
There’s no nice way to say this: Cremonese’s defense is atrociously bad. The Grigiorossi have given up more goals than anyone in Serie A, and may be missing 2 of their top 3 defenders. They’re going to defend deep and narrow, as you’d expect, hoping to clear out crosses and rely on goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi to repel any long shots. As we’ve seen this year already, though, they’re extraordinarily bad at tracking runners into the box, so getting the midfielders motoring forward should be a top priority.
How to watch
TV: If you get Serie A on any channels, the Coppa should be there too. Here are the full international television listings.
Online: Here is your source of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are, unsurprisingly, big favorites with the betting houses. Cremonese have worked hard to get to the semifinal and are a dangerous opponent, but the injuries to a defense that’s already Serie A’s worst and the visitors’ sparkling form means that the it’s pretty easy to pick a winner. The only way it could go wrong is if the Zini produces a wild atmosphere and the Grigiorossi play fearlessly and perfectly.
I just don’t think that’s going to happen. The Viola are simply a better side at the moment, and as long as they don’t get cocky, they should be fine. I’ll call it a 0-2 win with a Nico strike to open the scoring and an Arthur Cabral finish to close it, with Fiorentina largely controlling the proceedings outside of a couple of dangerous counterattacks.