It’s here. It’s finally here. Fiorentina has elbowed past every club but one in Italy for this opportunity and it’s finally arrived. For the first time since 2014, the Viola are in the final of the Coppa Italia. If they win, it will be their first major trophy since taking this one in 2001. All that stands between these players and eternal glory is Inter Milan. Each side’s beaten the other away in Serie A—Inter in a wild 3-4 in Florence (featuring some really atrocious refereeing) and Fiorentina in a tense 0-1 in Milan—so anything’s possible.
The referee for this one is 43-year-old Massimiliano Irrati; expect to hear a few things about his roots, as he was born in Florence and lives in Pistoia. In 17 appearances this year, he’s handed out 96 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 6 penalties. In 12 games under his direction, the Viola are W4 D2 L6. Last we saw him was the 1-0 loss at Atalanta.
The match will be played on Wednesday, 24 May 2023, at 7:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The forecast calls for a warm spring night, possibly with a bit of precipitation, but not nearly enough to dampen the spirits of the reported 23,000 Fiorentina fans heading for the capital. Keep an eye out for the scenes in Florence as well; the city has erected 8 big screens to show the match outdoors. Everyone’s going to be watching. Everyone.
Fiorentina’s had a relatively simple run through the Coppa Italia—Sampdoria, Torino, and Cremonese are more of a vandals’ row than a murderers’ row—but the club’s run through the Conference League means you can’t call them undeserving despite an up-and-down season in Serie A. These players have built a strong connection with the fans and the city and will be desperate to bring some silverware back with them to repay the sterling support they’ve received all year.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano may not have LW Riccardo Saponara but has everyone else at his disposal. Expect him to completely rotate the XI from the Torino game on Sunday, with the possible exception of Igor. The only questions are whether the Brazilian or Luca Ranieri will start at the back and Jonathan Ikoné or Riccardo Sottil on the wing. It’ll be the usual 4-3-3 with Dodô frequently setting up very narrow and Gaetano Castrovilli drifting wide from midfield.
Inter is an experienced, technical side and won’t be as bothered by Fiorentina’s pressing as some opponents, so the onus will likely be on the Viola to manufacture opportunities against an engaged defense rather than at transitions. Expect to see a lot of crosses from the right wing for Nicolás González to attack at the back post, where Matteo Darmian’s leaping may be suspect, while Jonathan Ikoné will try to use his dribbling to dust Federico Dimarco on the other wing. The key may be the mezzale: if they can find space, both on the wings to provide wide overloads and through the middle to provide a goal threat, Fiorentina will be well set up to trouble the Inter defense.
Inter Milan’s season has slightly paralleled Fiorentina’s. They sit 3rd in Serie A and look likely to stay there, assured of Champions League qualification. The league isn’t really the focus any more, though, as the Nerazzurri square off against Manchester City in a European final of their own in a couple of weeks. A dead rubber loss at Napoli on Sunday snapped a streak of 8 straight wins across all competitions that saw them outscore the opposition 18-3, so it’s safe to say this is a side in form.
Manager Simone Inzaghi won’t have CB Milan Škriniar or AM Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but that won’t change his usual 3-5-2 approach. Lautaro Martínez and Edin Džeko will start up top, with Romelu Lukaku likely to coming to come off the bench and offer a very different problem for the Viola defense to solve. Samir Handanović will start between the sticks, much to the consternation of some Inter fans, but the rest of the lineup should be Inzaghi’s ideal XI.
Inter will probably start energetically, hoping to grab an early goal and allow for a deep block. The main threat is Martínez and Džeko’s sterling linkup play: they’ll try to work off each other in 1-v-1s against the Fiorentina central defenders. Expect to see Denzel Dumfries attacking the back post, too, as Cristiano Biraghi has occasionally struggled to defend that area, while Dimarco will stay wide and bang in crosses a la Biraghi. Failing that, Hakan Çalhanoglu and Nicolò Barella can hit them from distance. It’s just a really good attack that can operate in a lot of different ways.
How to watch
TV: Sounds like it. Check whichever channel usually shows Serie A; here are the international television listings if you’re not sure.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
As you’d expect, Inter are favored by the oddsmakers. They’re higher in the table, have a much higher payroll, and are in the freaking Champions League final. That’s a good team. Even so, I think this could be tighter than expected, as Fiorentina have given the Nerazzurri a fair amount of trouble: only once in their past 15 meetings has the margin of victory been more than a single goal. Too, I’m expecting the Olimpico to lean slightly Fiorentina’s way, as the underdogs are usually more popular with the neutrals.
I’m expecting a tight but energetic game, with Inter mostly sitting deep and hitting on the break with the strikers while Fiorentina try to move the ball quickly out wide to find the wingers in 1-v-1s. I think there will be a fair amount of pressing in a slightly more open game than either manager wants, leading to a lack of control and some chaos. I think that’s where the Viola are best, so I’ll take them as 2-1 winners behind goals from Giacomo Bonaventura (who always brings it against Inter) and Arthur Cabral, with Džeko scoring for the bad guys.
Hey, it could happen, right?