Following a week and a half’s worth recuperation from the Supercoppa defeat against Napoli, Fiorentina returns to action against that competition’s eventual winner Inter Milan. In 187 previous meetings, the Viola are W50 D58 L79, including W1 D4 L5 over their past 10 league meetings. The last home win over the Nerazzurri came back in 2017, when it was Paulo Sousa directing an absolutely nuts 5-4 triumph. In the reverse fixture earlier this year, though, it was Inter handing out a 4-0 thrashing.
The referee for this one is 43-year-old Gianluca Aureliano of Bologna. In 6 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 30 bookings and 2 penalties; he’s always been very slow with the cards, so expect him to allow a mugging or two. Under his direction, Fiorentina has drawn once and lost once. Last we saw him was a, hm, contentious 1-1 draw at Cagliari in 2022 that featured a ridiculous red card for Álvaro Odriozola, 2 missed penalties, and general mayhem all over the place.
The match will be played Sunday, 28 January 2024, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a lovely winter day, clear and crisp and not even that cold, but the Viola faithful could make it a bit warm for Joe Barone and company, given the grumbling about a lack of signings in the winter mercato.
Despite 3 losses on the bounce, Fiorentina has clung to 4th place in the table, although its 34 points are just 3 ahead of 9th place Napoli. Yes, you read that correctly: 30% of Serie A is a game away from the Champions League places. With that sort of competition, it’s easy to see why Viola fans are worried about the lack of January reinforcements, as maintaining that lofty spot in the standings will require a minor miracle, especially with so many rivals reloading their rosters.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano at least gets Nicolás González; although Dodô and Gaetano Castrovilli are back in training, neither will feature quite yet, while Christian Kouamé is still out on AFCON duty with Côte d’Ivoire. There’ve been rumblings that Cousin Vinnie may bring back the 3-man defense, but the best bet is that he’ll stick with the usual 4-2-3-1. Riccardo Sottil will hopefully take a starting berth from Josip Brekalo, while poor Jonathan Ikoné should continue on the other wing.
Inter’s conceded the fewest goals on the year because it defends really well. The defenders are all big and smart, which makes them tough to beat aerially, and the midfielders are extraordinarily well-drilled and cut passing angles really effectively. The absences of some major cogs in the engine room means that Fiorentina may be able to find some space between the lines, so Giacomo Bonaventura is probably going to be the key man, at least until Nico comes in.
After falling off a bit in Serie A last year, Inter’s back with a vengeance. The Nerazzurri are just a point behind Juventus for the top spot and are hurtling forward with frightening momentum, having just won the idiotic Supercoppa last week. With the exception of a Coppa Italia exit at the hands of upstart Bologna, that means Inter haven’t lost since early September. It’s not just luck, either: this team boasts both the best attack and stingiest defense in the division, highlighting how dominant it’s been so far.
Manager Simone Inzaghi does have some significant absences: Alessandro Bastoni, Nicolò Barella, Hakan Çalhanoglu, and Juan Cuadrado are all out. That won’t change the plan at all, though; we’re all familiar with Inter’s 3-5-2 and how it works, and we all know the danger that Lautaro Martínez (18 goals and the yellow shirt in the capocannoniere race) and Marcus Thuram (8 goals, 7 assists) pose, especially with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan (2 goals, 6 assists) and Federico Dimarco (3 goals, 5 assists) pulling the strings behind them.
While their technical quality means they’re more than capable of controlling the play, the Nerazzurri prefer to sit deep and hit on the break. Martínez and Thuram are brilliant combining through the channels, while the wingbacks and midfielders are fantastic at attacking the posts and making late runs to meet cutbacks. Basically, this team is really good and can attack in various ways. That’s why it’s scored the most goals this season. If there’s a way to slow it down, nobody’s found it yet.
How to watch
TV: 4th vs 2nd for the Sunday night game could be enough for a broadcast. Check the international television listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legals streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Inter Milan is, as you’d expect, the heavy favorite with the bookmakers, and I can’t argue that take. Statistically speaking, this is the best team in Serie A coming off a Supercoppa win. Despite the absences of Çalhanoglu and Barella, it has more than enough in the tank to beat a Fiorentina that’s been sputtering over the past few weeks and looks desperate for some new ideas.
Even so, the Viola frequently seem to get up for the big sides under Italiano, so I’ll predict a (deeply hopeful) 2-2 draw, with Inter scoring the first two via Martínez and Mkhitaryan and dominating play before a Jack bomb halves the deficit, setting the stage for a late González header to tie things up, giving the good guys an unlikely point in a game they frankly don’t deserve to be in.