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Sassuolo vs Fiorentina: Preview

The Viola kick off 2024 with a trip to a beatable opponent, but an absence-riddled roster means it’s more complicated than you might expect.

AC Monza v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A TIM Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Fiorentina will hope to keep its 2023 form into 2024 and gets its first opportunity to do so against a struggling Sassuolo side. In 22 previous meetings, the Viola hold a W9 D7 L6 mark that falls to W3 D3 L4 over their past 10. This fixture ended in a 1-3 win for the good guys last year in the final match of the season.

The referee for this one is 38-year-old Rosario Abisso of Palermo. In 4 Serie A games this year, he’s handed out 22 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 2 penalties; he’s been good for a sending off or a spot kick in about 23 of his top flight matches, so expect fireworks. In 13 outings under his watch, Fiorentina is W8 D2 L3. Last we saw him was the 1-0 win over Lecce last year.

The match will be played on Saturday, 6 January 2023, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Mapei in Sassuolo. The forecast calls for rainy conditions, so the pitch should be extra slick. Also of interest is that the traveling support has already bought up all available tickets, so there’ll be a minimum of 4000 Fiorentina fans, and maybe as many as 6000.


It’s been a tough season for the denizens of Serie A’s smallest city. Sassuolo sits 16th with 16 points, separated from the relegation places by just 2 points, and haven’t won in 6 straight, including a resounding Coppa Italia quarterfinal loss to Atalanta in the mid-week. Perhaps the summer departures of stalwarts like Davide Frattesi, Maxime Lopez (whoops), and Rogério are just too much for the Neroverdi to overcome; this club has sold more talent than any in Italy over the past couple seasons.

Dazed and bemused.
Photo by PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images

Manager Alessio Dionisi should get Domenico Berardi back but won’t have Matías Viña, Pedro Obiang, Uroš Račić, or Gregoire Defrel. While he’s stuck with the typical Neroverdi 4-2-3-1 for most of the year, he did go 3 at the back against la Dea; whether that was a one-off or a dedicated tactical shift remains to be seen. Berardi (9 goals, 3 assists) is, as ever, the primary threat, but may not be fully fit. Between Andrea Pinamonti (6 goals, 1 assist) and Armand Laurienté (1 goal, 4 assists), though, this attack offers danger even without the star man.

Sassuolo have played the same way for the past decade, building from deep and focusing on their wide attackers. That emphasis on keeping the wingers on the touchlines should make for an interesting contrast with a Viola side that prioritizes clogging the middle. Defensively, the battle for Fiorentina is barely about stopping Berardi and company; it’s really about cutting off the supply at the source and preventing the ball from getting to the Neroverdi attackers in the first place. If they succeed, they should win pretty easily, but it’s hardly a simple task: Sassuolo’s 25 goals are 8th-most in Serie A because this team knows how to score.


In contrast to Sassuolo, Fiorentina’s arrow is pointing squarely up. Having won 3 straight in Serie A and gone 8 without tasting defeat in all competitions, the Viola are flying high in 4th place with 33 points. Hopes are naturally soaring, but with the schedule about to enter a truly brutal stretch due to the Supercoppa in Saudi Arabia (and what a miserable idea that is), they need to take maximum points from fixtures like this.

ACF Fiorentina v Torino FC - Serie A TIM
Drinking invisible Brunello di Montalcino straight from the transparent bottle.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have Nicolás González, Riccardo Sottil, or Christian Kouamé, leaving Jonathan Ikoné and Josip Brekalo (who’ll leave for Dinamo Zagreb as soon as the Viola can replace him) as the likely starters on the wings. With the Coppa Italia quarterfinal against high-flying Bologna on Tuesday and then a flight to Saudi Arabia for the Supercoppa (this is idiocy) at the weekend, he may opt to rotate the squad pretty heavily, so don’t be surprised if he trots out a few guys who’ve been buried on the bench.

As potent as Sassuolo is in attack, they’re equally miserable in defense, having conceded 33 goals (2nd-worst in Serie A). They’re quite passive without the ball and offer little resistance until their own third, which means Fiorentina should control the match. The Neroverdi are particularly bad in the air (2nd-worst win rate in the league) and struggle to track runners or stop dribblers. Simply put, this is a bad defense that can be attacked in a lot of ways; it’s up to Italiano to break it down without his best wingers, but he should have enough options to create some chances.

Possible lineups

Erlić or Ruan; Milenković or Martínez Quarta, Duncan or Mandragora
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How to watch

TV: Check the international television listings, but you’re probably going to stream this one.

Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

The bookies have Fiorentina as favorites, but only just. While I’d normally be pretty irritated, given how much better the Viola have been all year, the shortage of wingers and the upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia mean we could see quite a pretty disjointed side. Sassuolo, on the other hand, has all its stars available and rested with no intercontinental foolishness to worry about.

I’ll still back Fiorentina for a 1-2 win, though, on the back of their current momentum and strong defensive performances. Those defenders have been the best attackers, by the way, so let’s say that the goals come from Milenković (yet to score in Serie A this year, so he’s due) and Giacomo Bonaventura, with Berardi pulling one back for the hosts in a game that Fiorentina mostly dominate but lose track of for about 20 minutes at one point, making us all very nervous.

Forza Viola!