Having rebounded from a miserable loss against Sassuolo with a tense win over Hellas Verona, Fiorentina don’t get any sort of break: Juventus have arrived in Florence. In 183 previous meetings (dating back to an 11-0 loss in 1928’s Divisione Nazionale), the Viola have compiled a W40 D57 L86 record, including a W2 D1 L7 in their past 10 meetings. One of those wins, of course, was a stunning 0-3 triumph in the reverse fixture, so the Notts County cosplayers are going to have that fresh in their minds.
The referee for this one is 39-year-old Davide Massa of Imperia, who’s one of Italy’s top-rated guys; he’s worked the Champions League and the Nations League this year. In 13 Serie A appearances this year, he’s handed out 58 yellow cards, 3 red cards, and 5 penalties, which are all right in line with his career averages. In 19 matches under his eye, Fiorentina have posted a W8 D6 L5 record, although they haven’t won on his watch since 2016. Last we saw him was the 1-2 Coppa Italia loss against Inter Milan this year, in which he acquitted himself just fine. He was, though, in charge of last year’s opener against Napoli, featuring an all-time dive from Dries Mertens and several other questionable decisions, so he’s not immune from a wobble.
The match will be played Sunday, 25 April 2021, at 2:00 PM GMT/9:00 AM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Florence. Despite being a bit chilly that morning, the mercury should climb to above 21 C/70 F by kickoff; with no rain and just some scattered clouds predicted, it’s going to be an absolutely gorgeous Tuscan spring day.
Despite that massive win over Verona, Fiorentina are still looking over their shoulders. Currently in 14th place with 33 points, just 5 above Cagliari and relegation, any result here would provide an unexpected but very welcome addition to that buffer. Of course, when you realize that the Viola haven’t won at home since beating Spezia back in February and have done the double over Juve just three times, things seem a bit less rosy.
Manager Giuseppe Iachini will have a full squad except for Giacomo Bonaventura (suspension), Alexandr Kokorin (something), and Borja Valero (old). He’ll trot out his usual 5-3-2. There’s a possibility that he’ll field 5 central defenders with Martín Cáceres and Igor at wingback, but Cristiano Biraghi and Lorenzo Venuti could fill in there as well. With Jack out, the midfield picks itself, and there certainly aren’t any questions up top.
Since Fiorentina are going to be defending with at least 11 in their own half at all times, this is going to be all about finding space on the break. J******s have played a very high line this year despite having some rather slow defenders in the middle; coupled with their habit of throwing as many men forward as possible, that should leave space for Dušan Vlahović to gallop into. If Franck Ribery and Castrovilli or Bonaventura can support him, they could have some promising situations. They’ll need to be much more clinical in front of goal than they’ve been of late, though, as they probably won’t get more than a handful of chances.
10 points from their past 5 matches may make it seem like the Bianconeri are rolling right along, but there are cracks all through this team, highlighted by a home loss to Benevento. They’re still in 4th place with 65 points, but Napoli are just 2 points behind. Of course, that’s assuming that failson extraordinaire Andrea Agnelli still has any interest in the Champions League when he could hang out with fellow damp trash pile Florentino Pérez.
Manager Andrea Pirlo won’t have CB Merih Demiral (coronavirus) and RW Federico Chiesa (lol), but should have everyone else. He’ll probably stick with his fluid 4-4-2, but may opt to rotate heavily after Wednesday’s win over Parma. Chiellini, Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, Dejan Kulusevski, and Alvaro Morata are all likely to slot into the lineup, with Juan Cuadrado shifting to rightback.
Pirlo’s philosophy seems to be hurling numbers forward and simply overwhelming opponents; it’s worked brilliantly at times but hasn’t seemed sustainable. Cuadrado’s bursts down the right have probably been the most consistent form of creativity, but the sheer quality of the players means that the mister can depend on one of them to create something out of nothing even when his schemes go awry, whether that’s by crossing, shooting from distance, dribbling, or finding space between the lines to pull the strings. They like to control the ball in the opponent’s half, which means Erick Pulgar and Sofyan Amrabat are going to be very busy indeed screening the Viola defense.
How to watch
TV: Doesn’t look likely. Check the full international television listings if you want to be sure.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The visitors are massive favorites here for a reason. They’re the better team, in better form, and have spoken about wanting revenge for the reverse fixture. Everything here sets up for a massive Bianconeri win. However, the Viola have shown that they can trouble a high line, and Vlahović against Bonucci and/or Chiellini in a race has only one winner. No prediction this week because I don’t want to jinx anything, but this feels like either a complete blowout or a massive shock result with no in between.