It can’t keep going forever, can it? Fiorentina’s won 9 straight across all competitions, including 5 in Serie A. While Spezia may not seem like the candidate to halt that momentum, the Aquilotti have some extra motivation against the Viola. Fiorentina are undefeated in their 11 previous meetings, too, having won 7 and drawn 4. The reverse fixture ended 1-2 to the good guys, although Spezia was the better side for most of the game.
The referee for this one is 35-year-old Federico Dionisi of L’Aquila. In 7 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 31 yellow cards and 1 penalty. Fiorentina are W1 D1 L1 under his direction; last we saw him was the shambolic 0-1 loss to Torino in January, which featured some bizarre decisions, including an incident where he whistled Jack for a foul despite the midfielder very clearly being struck in the face.
The match will be played on Saturday, 8 April 2023, at 12:30 PM GMT/8:30 AM EST, at the Stadio Alberto Picco in Spezia. The forecast calls for a warm spring day, with temperatures reaching up to 17°C/62°F as the sun peaks out between the clouds. There may be some rain earlier in the day, but it should be done by kickoff. In short, we’re talking about the perfect Tuscan spring day.
Fiorentina is the most in-form team across Europe’s top 5 leagues (h/t to RevonB) and the vibes in Florence are, as you can imagine, immaculate. In 9th place with 40 points (even with Bologna but trailing on head-to-head), only the purplest bong could preserve the hope of finishing in 6th and qualifying for Europe (although 7th might be enough), but with the Coppa Italia and the Conference League both within reach, the emphasis will be on maintaining the momentum to keep the team in the right headspace.
Manager Vinenzo Italiano won’t have DM Sofyan Amrabat, while CB Nikola Milenković and LW Riccardo Saponara are both struggling with flu and could miss out. We could see a return to the 4-3-3 that the msiter deployed againt Inter Milan, with Giacomo Bonaventura and Gaetano Castrovilli playing ahead of Rolando Mandragora. Expect some rotation elsewhere, too, as the fixtures are coming in at a rate of twice per week for the rest of the season, and these guys will need to keep their legs fresh.
Spezia don’t boast a good defense, conceding the most shots and the most through balls in Serie A this year, as well as the 4th-most goals. They’re not very good at anything at the back, frankly, but will likely sit deep and narrow; Semplici, at the very least, knows how to organize a tight and frustrating rearguard action. The best bet may be to keep the width and then look to play through, so the midfielders could be the key. If they can find those balls through to the attackers, Fiorentina should be halfway there.
Somehow, Spezia are still hanging onto their position in the top flight for next year. With 10 games left, they’re in 17th place—1 spot above Hellas Verona in the final relegation spot—but they have a 6-point lead and look set to hang on to ensure their 3rd straight season in Serie A. Indeed, facing their former manager in Italiano, and with the Dumutru Effect starting to rev up, this could be a much trickier match than the experts anticipate, especially with how well they played in the reverse fixture.
Manager Leonardo Semplici (a native Florentine) took over in late February from Luca Gotti and has largely steadied the ship, becoming a master at earning draws. He won’t have LB Arkadiusz Reca or LB João Moutinho, forcing hulking centerback Dimitrios Nikolaou into the role. While Semplici has long favored a 3-5-2, he’s also deployed a 4-3-3 of late and may stick with that shape. Keep an eye out for M’bala Nzola (12 goals), who’s one of Italy’s most underrated strikers, as well as the former Viola contingent of Bartłomiej Drągowski, Szymon Żurkowski, and Juan Agudelo, who all might have something to prove.
Spezia do boast some fun attackers besides Nzola. Emanuel Gyasi, Daniele Verde, and Agudelo are all quick and technical, capable of winning 1-v-1s and feeding the striker. They’ll look to use that pace in transition, trying to get the Fiorentina defenders isolated and attack them off the dribble or in behind. The midfielders and fullbacks will probably play pretty conservatively, staying deep to maintain their shape rather than joining the attack. In short, it’ll be the same sort of thing Fiorentina face most weeks.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are overwhelming favorites with the oddsmakers for all the usual reasons. The Viola are higher in the table, at home, and in an unholy vein of form. Spezia are, well, none of those things, although the Dumutru Effect could make them a tougher nut to crack than the experts are predicting.
I’ll still make it a 2-0 win for the hosts, though, with Jović and Castrovilli the goalscorers. I’m expecting a rather ragged game with Fiorentina leaving more space for the Aquilotti to attack than Italiano would want, and some Pietro Terracciano heroics to keep a clean sheet in an entertaining, albeit sloppy, match.