Fresh off a somewhat disappointing but probably okay draw at Genk in the Conference League, Fiorentina take the always-unpleasant trip north and east to take on Udinese. In 106 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W53 D28 L25 mark, including W5 D2 L3 in their previous 10 league meetings. This fixture resulted in an entirely self-inflicted 1-0 loss last year.
The referee for this one is 38-year-old Daniele Chiffi of Padova. In 4 total appearances this year, he’s handed out 13 yellow cards and a penalty.
The match will be played on Sunday, 24 September 2023, at 1:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Friuli in Udine. The forecast calls for a sunny, warm autumn day, but it may well be the coolest fixture Fiorentina have played this season, which at least should be nice for the players and fans who make the trek.
It’s been about as Udinese a start to the season as you could possibly ask for: the Zebrette got thrashed by Juventus in the opener and have since tied 3 successive matches, scoring a single goal along the way while keeping a couple of clean sheets. It’s a throwback to their European days, when they’d sell half the team every summer, start terribly as the new signings bedded in, and then go on a tear through the back end of the season.
Manager Andrea Sottil (yes, Riccardo’s dad) has a full-blown injury crisis: CB Enzo Ebosse, CB Adam Masina, CB Christian Kabasele, RB Kingsley Ehibizue, CF Gerard Deulofeu, and CF Keinan Davis are all likely to miss out. The elder Sottil will use a 3-5-2 as ever, although that backline has been awfully shaky with all the absences. The danger comes from CM Lazar Samardžić, who’s tasked with pulling the strings for former can’t-miss prospect Lorenzo Lucca up front.
No matter the year or the manager or the personnel, you know what Udinese’s gonna do: sit deep in a well-organized block and frustrate an opponent, capitalizing on any mistake at the back or a set piece to grab a goal. It’s also worth mentioning that they’re better than their goal difference, so expecting Lucca and Florian Thauvin to keep missing chances is begging for trouble. I say this with nothing but admiration and fear: Udinese is Serie A’s cockroach. These guys will be in the top flight after the bombs have gone off and killed all other life on earth. They’re fantastic at what they do.
It’s been a rather wobbly start to the season for Fiorentina, which isn’t too surprising given the fair amount of late transfer business the club did. With 7 points form 4 matches and a solid footing in the Conference League, though, the results haven’t been terrible, although the defense—9 goals conceded already, joint 2nd-worst in Serie A—has certainly been a cause for concern.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano has injury woes of his own: CB Yerry Mina and RW Nicolás González are out hurt, with RW Jonathan Ikoné, AM Antonín Barák, and AM Gino Infantino probably not ready either. Expect him to revert to the 4-2-3-1 featuring Giacomo Bonaventura as the trequartista and M’Bala Nzola up front. Josip Brekalo and Christian Kouamé are the likeliest wingers, but we could see Ricky Sottil too. Pietro Terracciano should resume his spot between the sticks as well.
With all the injuries at the back and Fiorentina’s fragility in midfield, don’t be surprised to see a more proactive pressing approach from the hosts in this one in hopes of cutting off the Viola supply at the source. That could leave a bit more space for Bonaventura and Arthur Melo to work their magic in the middle, but it really feels like the Viola need their strikers to start threatening the goal at some point, especially with González unavailable.
How to watch
TV: Unlikely, but check the international television listings if you feel like it.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The bookmakers have Fiorentina as slight favorites, which isn’t too surprising given the absences in the Udinese camp and the form of the two sides coming in. Neither side has really impressed and these tend to be pretty low-scoring matchups; the last 5 meetings in Udine have featured a single goal, and that feels about right here, too, for a couple sides scuffling for form.
I’ll say that Fiorentina do the deed and come away with the 0-1 win courtesy of M’Bala Nzola, who finally gets himself untracked and scores his first Viola goal to cap off a game that’s more cagey than entertaining and features a fair number of fouls, leading to a stop-start, barely watchable affair.