Sunday, October 8, 2015
3 PM local, 9 AM EDT, 6 AM PDT
Things look pretty rosy from the top of the table, but Paulo Sousa knows he can't let his boys stop and enjoy the view with a trip to Naples coming up. Fiorentina's inability to produce a coherent performance coming out of the international break has been a running gag around here for the past few years, so a strong away performance is a must, both to maintain the lead in the standings and to break a bad habit. Too bad the opponent is Napoli, a traditionally tough opponent that looks like the most in-form team in Serie A right now.
After losing their opener at Sassuolo, drawing to Sampdoria, and then drawing at Empoli, Napoli have roared to life, shellacking Lazio 5-0, drawing at Carpi 0-0, beat Juventus 2-1, and hammered AC Milan 4-0 in Milan. New coach Maurizio Sarri has certainly solidified his grasp on the job after early rumblings (including from Diego Maradona) about his performance. As noted in the scorelines, Napoli's strength is in attack, with Gonzalo Higuaín and Lorenzo Insigne looking lively and lethal, with José Callejón, Manolo Gabbiadini, and Dries Mertens playing supporting roles. The common factor here is pace. In the midfield, new addition Allan has meshed well with playmaker Marek Hamsik and Jorginho. Napoli is a bit shakier at the back, but with such a powerful attack, it hasn't mattered recently.
Sarri has slightly altered Napoli's outlook, looking to control games rather than play exclusively on the counter. Interestingly enough, Napoli's form improved when Sarri changed the team's shape from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-3-3, allowing the team's embarrassment of riches out wide to wreak havoc with opposing defenses. For this one, I'd expect Napoli to revert to a more reactive approach, given Fiorentina's usual monopolization of possession. With no injury doubts, expect the Partenopei to use Hamsik deeper than the number ten role he's played for the past several years, with Jorginho and Allan providing the muscle. Also watch for new right back Elseid Hysaj, who's been excellent.
The catbird seat ain't half bad, but Sousa needs to keep it up. Fiorentina's form looks excellent, but keep in mind the opposition: the wins are over the current 11th, 15th, 17th, 20th, 2nd, and 10th place teams. Against teams in the European places, Fiorentina have won one (against Inter) and lost one (against Torino). Should the team stumble here, expect the optimism and scudetto talk to end fast; a loss here and another against Roma next week could put Sousa in the hot seat again. Fiorentina badly needs a win here, to prove to themselves and the rest of the league that they are a legitimate top-tier team right now.
Expect Sousa to continue with the 3-4-2-1 that's been so successful, although it could end up looking more like a 4-3-3 if he orders Marcos Alonso to retreat a bit to help out against Napoli's speedy wingers. Given Napoli's speed on the break, expect to see lots of passing between the center backs to calm the game down. Manuel Pasqual (leg) and Gilberto (thigh) remain out, as does Marko Bakic (back), but Nikola Kalinić (thigh) is believed to be recovered enough from the strain he got with Croatia.
Napoli (4-3-3): Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejón, Higuaín, Insigne
Fiorentina (3-4-2-1): Tatarusanu; Roncaglia, Gonzalo, Astori; Błaszczykowski, Badelj, Vecino, Alonso; Iličić, Valero; Kalinić
Where to watch
TV: If you've got BeIn Sports, you're in luck, because they're showing this one live. Good job, BeIn Sports.
Online: Here is a list of legal places to stream this one. As always, please don't post illegal streams in the comments. We'll delete them, and if you keep doing it, we'll either sic Cthulhu on you or ban you. As always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page.
If you're interested in what the Napoli fans think, we interviewed Conor, who's the front man at the Siren's Song. Read up his thoughts on this one here. We reciprocated, of course, and our musings on the upcoming match can be found on the Siren's Song here. Chloe also wrote a view from the other side on TSS, so you can expect them to reciprocate on here soon. Please keep it civil with them in the comments, by the way; Conor's an awesome dude and helps us out with the technical side a lot, and we've got a good relationship with the folks over there that we'd like to keep.
Alrighty, folks. That's it. Hang onto your butts and, as always, Forza Viola.