Having struggled for points in recent weeks, Sunday’s meeting with Empoli offers Fiorentina a chance to get back to winning ways in front of their own fans. La Viola have not won since a late September triumph over Atalanta, recording six draws and two defeats in the eight games played since that date.
Currently sitting 12th in Serie A, they welcome Tuscan rivals Empoli to the Stadio Artemio Franchi knowing their opponents sit just three places behind them in the table. Beppe Iachini – himself a beloved former Fiorentina player – has the Azzurri looking much more solid since his appointment last month and they are undefeated in his four games in charge.
With three wins and a draw under the new boss, they are looking far better and will represent a real test here. “It’s not a coincidence,” Iachini told Gazzetta dello Sport when asked about the improvements. Our objective is to stay up and we’re doing better in the table now, but we still have to grow.”
The same is undoubtedly true of a Fiorentina side who showed a previously absent determination to fight back from 3-1 down away to Sassuolo last weekend. Eventually earning a 3-3 draw, Stefano Pioli was determined to use the lessons learnt in order to help his team rediscover their best form before the Winter Break.
“We showed that we wanted to fight and never give up,” Pioli told DAZN after the game. “We’re working on it, trying to draw positives out of every training session and finding continuity over the course of each single game.
“We have to work on a lot of situations and believe in what we are doing. It’s just a shame that we showed this level of spirit only after we found ourselves trailing our opponents twice. But we have to take something substantial out of today and invest it in our future.”
However, Pioli will need to find a way to do so without Nikola Milenkovic, Jordan Veretout and Edimilson Fernandes, the trio – who all started the game against Sassuolo – each serving one-game suspensions.
Vitor Hugo returns from his own ban to replace Milenkovic while Bryan Dabo is set to replace Jordan Veretout in midfield in what looks set to be a long overdue start. In attack, former Everton winger Kevin Mirallas is likely to be given the nod after grabbing the crucial equaliser at the Mapei stadium.
For Empoli, both Manuel Pasqual and Luca Antonelli are struggling with injuries and may miss out here, meaning Joel Untersee could get a chance to play with Frederic Veseli possibly moving to the left flank.
Fiorentina (4-3-3): LaFont; Laurini, Pezzella, Vitor Hugo, Biraghi; Benassi, Dabo, Gerson; Mirallas, Simeone, Chiesa
Empoli (3-5-2): Provedel; Veseli, Silvestre, Maietta; Di Lorenzo, Krunic, Bennacer, Traore, Antonelli; Caputo, La Gumina