Fiorentina doesn’t get time to brood on a streak-snapping loss at Sassuolo, as Bologna comes to town for a Coppa Italia edition of the Derby dell’Appennino. In 155 previous meetings, the Viola hold a record of W60 D50 L45, including a W4 D4 L2 mark over their past 10 meetings. When these sides met in Serie A play a couple months ago, the good guys came away with a 2-1 victory courtesy of a Giacomo Bonaventua banger and a Nicol González penalty.
The referee for this one is Matteo Marchetti of Ostia. In 7 Serie A matches this year, he’s handed out 18 yellow cards and 2 penalties. In 5 games under his direction, Fiorentina has compiled a W2 D1 L2 record. Last we saw him was the 4-0 curbstomping delivered by Inter Milan earlier this year, but you may remember him better from a scoreless draw against Empoli a couple years ago when cramps meant he had to be subbed off.
The match will be played Tuesday, 9 January 2024, at 8:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a clear, blustery evening with temperatures around 4°C/40°F. It’ll be cold, yes, but the conditions are just about perfect for a quarterfinal in the Coppa.
Despite that reversal against the Neroverdi, Fiorentina is flying high, sitting 4th in Serie A with 33 points. Only the most optimistic fans could’ve expected such a lofty spot at the halfway point, but the Viola are entering a brutal section of the schedule, including a trip to Saudi Arabia for an idiotically-expanded Supercoppa Italiana. Between that unholy mini-tournament, the Conference League (we’ll know Fiorentina’s Round of 16 opponent on 23 February), and the Coppa itself, there’s hope that this could be the year that the club wins its first major trophy since 2001.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have Nico González, Riccardo Sottil, or Christian Kouamé, so we’ll likely see Jonathan Ikoné and Josip Brekalo on the wings again. Lucas Beltrán should get the nod up front, with Alfred Duncan returning to the XI as well. The main question, of course, is if the mister can overcome the lack of wingers; given the sub par performances from the wide attackers against Sassuolo, there’ve been whispers about a change in formation to mitigate that weakness.
The Oscar Meyers tend to press intensely from the front, so Fiorentina will need to either pass out of the back successfully or bypass the pressure with accurate long balls to the forwards. The silver lining is that once that press has been passed, Bologna hasn’t been great at preventing opponents from getting into the area, although the defense allows some of the fewest and lowest-quality shots of anyone in Serie A. Especially minus his best wingers, Italiano will need to get creative to generate enough chances.
It’s been an astonishing year so far for Bologna, who’ve powered their way into 5th place with 32 points, just 1 behind Fiorentina and the Champions League. It’s quite a leap from last year’s 9th-place finishers, and the Felsinei could return to Europe for the first time since getting knocked out the UEFA Cup by Galatasaray in 1999. Having knocked out Hellas Verona and Inter Milan to get to the quarterfinal, the Rossoblù will have plenty of belief and motivation despite a 3-0 pasting at Udinese and a draw against newly-promoted Genoa that required a 95th minute equalizer in their past two outings.
Manager Thiago Motta won’t have Adama Souamaoro, Oussama El Azzouzi, Jesper Karlsson, or Dan Ndoye. He’ll use his usual 4-2-3-1 setup but may make some changes after a couple of disappointing performances. Joshua Zirkzee (8 goals, 4 assists) is the main danger and Bologna’s MVP, but Lewis Ferguson (4 goals, 4 assists) and Riccardo Orsolini (4 goals, 1 assist) offer enough threat to ensure that opponents can’t just double up on the Dutchman. And, although the focus has been on Zirkzee and company, it’s the defense—3rd best in Serie A with just 16 goals conceded—that’s impressed more.
Bologna like to build from deep and keep the ball at all costs, and they’re quite good at it; Fiorentina conceded the possession battle last time these two met 39% to 61%. They’ve got a great balance, with Zirkzee acting almost as a playmaker at times with Ferguson running in behind and Orsolini cutting in from the right. They like quick combinations at the edge of the box and get runners in at goal from unexpected angles. The Viola midfield will need to track back well and the defenders will have to stay very alert to have any chance of success.
How to watch
TV: No other Italian games that day, so check the international television listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The bookies have it pretty close. Fiorentina’s at home, which offers an advantage, but the absences on the wings are a pretty serious issue. That makes me think that Fiorentina will want to keep it pretty tight and make this an ugly, low-scoring affair. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 0-0 or 1-1 at full time. For my prediction, I’ll go with a 1-1 behind goals from Beltrán and Zirkzee in a game that’s slow, difficult, and not much fun to watch.