The Coppa Italia loss against Inter Milan was about as tough as it could’ve been, but the Serie A season isn’t done. In fact, this one will ring down the curtain on the Franchi for this year, so expect to see all the families and a bit of a carnival atmosphere as they take on AS Roma. In 192 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W58 D66 L68 mark, including a W2 D2 L6 over their past 10 in the league. The away fixture finished in a 2-0 win for the Giallorossi due to Dodô’s early red card.
The referee for this one is 31-year-old Giovanni Ayroldi of Molfetta. In 19 matches this year, he’s handed out 100 yellow cards, 2 red cards, and 9 penalties. He’s had his fair share of mishaps over the year, most notably disallowing a Cyriel Dessers goal against Juventus a few months ago. Under his watch, Fiorentina has won once and lost once; most recently, he worked the utterly bizarre 2-5 win over Napoli in the Coppa last year.
The match will be played Saturday, 26 May 2023, at 4:00 PM GMT/12:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a warm spring day with temperatures hoving above 27°C/80°F and a few clouds. Should be perfect for a party before, during, and after an essentially meaningless game.
That Coppa loss stings but Fiorentina can remain hopeful, as there’s still an opportunity to cap off the season with silverware in the Conference League. The trick, of course, is making sure that the players arrive in Prague well-rested but still sharp, and with just 2 Serie A matches left, the club will probably approach these as high-level training matches, especially since the team can’t finish higher than 8th or lower than 13th; in fact, somewhere right around the current 11th place feels about right, although doubtless Joe Barone would like a win or two to ensure a top-half finish.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano will have everyone available but may opt to rotate pretty heavily after a draining outing against the Nerazzurri, although he may want to give some of the stalwarts a chance to thank the fans in the final home match. We could even see some Primavera guys get a few minutes.
Roma’s going to sit very deep, frequently with 10 or even 11 behind the ball, and dare Fiorentina to unlock the intricate puzzlebox that a Mourinho-coached low block is. They’ve got size in the middle that makes crossing an unpromising approach, so the emphasis should be on exploiting the minimal spaces between the lines, moving the ball quickly, and deforming the defensive shape.
Roma’s in about the same boat as Fiorentina with regards to the table. They’re 4 behind AC Milan for the final Champions League spot and could flip-flop with Atalanta for 5th place and another year of the Europa League, but will doubtless focus instead on winning the final of the latter competition against Sevilla (although we all know that a second-tier final against the Rojiblancos can only end one way) to earn entry to the CL.
Manager Jose Mourinho is expected to rotate his side quite heavily with an eye to that final on Wednesday. Most pundits are expecting him to name a bunch of youngsters to the bench and maybe even sneak a couple into the XI. He’ll probably play his usual 3-4-2-1 formation, but the real question is whether he’ll risk stars like Paulo Dybala, Tammy Abraham, and Lorenzo Pellegrini for such low stakes as this.
We all know how Mourinho teams work and this won’t be any different. The Giallorossi will focus primarily on playing long on the break, trying to get the front three to combine in space and occasionally bringing the wingbacks up. They’ve also been particularly lethal from set pieces this season. The real trick is to not let them score first, because they won’t just park the bus. They’ll boot it and chock the wheels.
How to watch
TV: Probably not, but check the international television listings.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The oddsmakers have Roma as favorites here, based on current form and the table, but the line isn’t too high, largely because the Viola are at home and neither manager seems to care in the slightest about the outcome here. That makes predicting the action particularly difficult, since we could end up seeing something more akin to a Primavera match than a fully professional one.
Even so, I’ll give the hosts the edge and call it a 2-0 win. There will likely be a desire among the players to bounce back to reward the supporters, especially in the final home game of the season, and Mourinho’s likelier to play teenagers than his usual guys. I’m expecting this to be a pretty slow encounter, all things considered, with Fiorentina scoring in the second half and then adding another just before the end. Luka Jović and Riccardo Sottil feel like decent bets to score in that sort of situation.