Can Minnows SPAL Shock Fiorentina?

With just five games in the books, this clash is between two teams sitting surprisingly high up the table as fourth placed Fiorentina welcome SPAL to the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday, the visitors sitting second behind Juventus at this early stage.

They are there on merit however, notching wins over Parma and Atalanta as Coach Leonardo Semplici – a former youth team boss at Fiorentina – continues to shine. His players clearly believe in what they are doing, his well-drilled three-man defence working brilliantly to deny opponents time and space.

That they have conceded just one goal so far this term underlines the effort they have consistently displayed, while they have been dangerous on the counter attack and at set pieces where Semplici’s planning and attention to detail once again comes to the fore. The 51-year-old will have to cope without midfield playmaker Federico Viviani however, meaning Pasquale Schiattarella will likely be given a start in his absence.

Fiorentina have been equally good so far this term however, bouncing back from last weekend’s loss at Napoli with an excellent first half display away to Sampdoria in midweek. They eventually held on for a 1-1 draw, but with first choice goalkeeper Alban Lafont set to return to the side after a two-game absence, the Viola backline should be much stronger this time around.

“Those who were substituted are better but I will decide tomorrow,” Stefano Pioli revealed during his pre-match press conference. “Everything is fine, nobody has had any problems. I could make some changes but I’m yet to confirm the team. [Bartolomej] Dragowski has excellent skills, he has been ready and this leaves me satisfied.However, tomorrow Lafont will play because he’s fine.”

There will be some difficult choices for Stefano Pioli to make in midfield where Gerson – on loan from AS Roma – has been particularly disappointing and he is expected to be dropped in favour of Bryan Dabo for this encounter. Further forward, it remains to be seen whether Marko Pjaca will retain his place on the wing as former Everton man Kevin Mirallas awaits his first start and the Fiorentina boss will also need to hand Giovanni Simeone a rest at some stage with Cyril Théréau looking for a run out.

The same is true for Federico Chiesa, but there are plenty of options for Pioli should he choose this game as the one where he can afford to rotate the side somewhat. One player in excellent form to look out for is right-back Nikola Milenkovic, while on the opposite flank Cristiano Biraghi’s crossing has been a constant source of goal scoring opportunities.

Fiorentina (4-3-3): Lafont; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Vitor Hugo, Biraghi; Dabo, Veretout, Benassi; Chiesa, Simeone, Pjaca

SPAL (3-5-2): Gomis; Cionek, Vicari, Felipe; Lazzarri, Kurtic, Schiattarella, Missiroli, Fares; Petagna, Antenucci

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