Fiorentina Bounce Back In Style

No wins since the end of September. A problem with scoring goals from open play. A number of key players out through suspension. A home match versus local rivals. This was the situation that faced under-pressure Fiorentina boss Stefano Pioli before last Sunday’s match with Empoli, and to make matters worse, the Viola were already 1-0 down after just 23 minutes.  Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Round 16

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Andrea Consigli (7 points): a solid week for defences, as ten teams managed to keep a clean sheet. There was no particularly outstanding pieces of goalkeeping though, as the clubs that did not allow a goal mostly stymied the opponents before they could get to shoot. Consigli had a pair of solid saves on Daniel Ciofani early.

Giorgio Chiellini (5 points): if Torino did not manage to score despite outplaying Juventus for a good chunck of the Derby, it is because of the ubiquity of the Juventus captain. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 16

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Standings implications: Juventus squeezed past Torino in the Derby della Mole, but Napoli maintained the distance with a late gem in Cagliari. Inter continue to rack up home wins as Udinese were their latest victim. Atalanta edged Lazio, confirming their high ambitions for the season. Roma prevailed in a rollercoaster of a game versus Genoa. Fiorentina and Sassuolo were able to pop Empoli and Frosinone, snapping out of their lengthy droughts. Sampdoria also got a win down in the Europa League morass. SPAL and Chievo shared the spoils in a more intense match than what the result indicates. Continue reading

Poor Recent Performances Worrying For Fiorentina

After a superb start to the season, those who follow Serie A were beginning to discuss Fiorentina as a potential contender for a Champions League spot. A 6-1 win over Chievo Verona in their opening game of the campaign was followed up with three home wins without conceding a goal as the Viola ground out a 1-0 win over Udinese before smashing three past SPAL and two more versus Atalanta.

Away results had been disappointing, but the fixture list had played a big factor, defeats in tough clashes versus Napoli, Inter and Lazio and a draw with Sampdoria understandable for the side with the lowest average age in all of Europe’s top five leagues.

Yet recently, the Tuscan side have struggled to find the back of the net, an unexpected 1-1 home draw versus Cagliari seemingly a blip before they also failed to impress during a result with the same scoreline away to Torino. While there is no doubt that Pioli has done an excellent job so far, these latest setbacks have just started the faintest whispers of discontent towards the Coach from the supporters.

“We brought home a good result, considering we didn’t play well, and that is nothing to be sniffed at,” said Pioli during his post-match comments.“In the second half we actually played better and had the best scoring opportunities. We struggled with their pressing and didn’t move enough off the ball.

 “We can and must work on many situations, but the psychological approach from my players was excellent and a real sign of progress. We suffered for the result and that is important.”

 His statements may well be accurate, but loyalties are all-too often forgotten during a negative run of results, and the boss will have to turn things around so quickly if he is to avert those voices of discontent from gathering weight. This will not be easy with a home game versus AS Roma next on the billing, but – as the man himself professed in his press conference – there are some clear issues that can be worked on in training.

 The most obvious of these is the form of Giovanni Simeone. Travelling to Argentina in consecutive international breaks after he received his maiden start for the Albiceleste in September has clearly caused fatigue, and Pioli responded to his poor performance versus Cagliari by dropping the 23-year-old from the starting XI versus Torino.

He would fail to have a single shot in 86 minutes of action at home to Cagliari, and last Saturday’s match in Turin marked his sixth appearance without a goal. The boss will now have to ascertain whether to persist in the hope he can overcome his barren spell, or whether to give veteran forward Cyril Thereau a go in his place.

 However, the blame does not lie purely on Simeone. In moving Jordan Veretout to a deeper midfield role, the Coach seems to have stifled any creativity in the middle of the park. Perhaps it’s now time to allow the former Aston Villa man to express his clear prowess going forward, instead slotting Bryan Dabo into the holding role. Such a move would surely provide the forwards with more service but – whatever Pioli decides to do – it remains clear that something must be changed in this area if the Viola are to succeed.

 Another complaint voiced by supporters was that Fiorentina are attempting too often to bypass an ineffective midfield by resorting to long balls in order to play in Federico Chiesa. This is putting too much pressure on the 21-year-old to carry the team, a heavy burden for a developing star. This approach is reflected in no less than 68 long balls and only 246 short passes versus Torino, and a poor passing success rate of 49.5% overall this term.

 A win versus Roma will be a tough ask at the weekend, but Pioli must work on the aforementioned issues this week in training, in order that there is at least visible progress being made. At some point, the Coach and his young side will have to stand strong and come through this bad patch, their inexperience no longer a reason to excuse them from a lack of points on the board.

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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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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 36

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Here’s the first edition of the Serie A recap, which will provide some quick thoughts on the round that just ended.

Standings implications. Juventus are de facto champions since Napoli dropped two more points and the gap in the goal difference is too wide. It is not officially official, but it is as close as it gets. Inter earned two points to Lazio for the fourth spot and the showdown in the final matchday will likely decide the final team qualifying to Champions League. Sampdoria are virtually eliminated from the Europa League race since they are five points behind the seventh-placed Atalanta, which were leapfrogged by Milan despite a great performance against Lazio.

At the bottom of the table, Verona are mathematically relegated, while Sassuolo are safe. Chievo and Spal nabbed monumental wins, putting Cagliari in real troubles. There are now five teams within two points, with one going down.

Confirmations. Mauro Icardi, Matteo Politano and Hakan Calhanoglu extended their hot streaks. Paulo Dybala did not have a great game but still hit the target, Simone Verdi converted a penalty in an unfavourable match-up. Patrick Cutrone has the biggest nose for the goal among Milan’s centre-forwards. Cengiz Under, Sami Khedira and Musa Barrow continue to produce, same for Mariusz Stepinski. Both Spal strikers took advantage of Benevento’s lousy defence. Giacomo Bonaventura, Douglas Costa and Marcelo Brozovic shined and notched a pair of assist each, Josip Ilicic could have had a similar haul if it was not for Thomas Strakosha and the rest of Lazio’s defenders. Alisson had a couple of tremendous saves.

Guess who is back. It did not propel Napoli to victory, but Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik snapped their scoring slump. Valter Birsa scored a crucial goal, his first since October.

Surprise scorers. The first three are not that astonishing since they are attackers, but it was their first this season, or in Serie A in general: Rafinha finally coronated a string of good performances with a goal, Giuseppe Rossi found the net after over a year and Seung-Wong Lee had the consolation goal against Milan. Ignazio Abate and Andrea Ranocchia have not started much this year and it was certainly a surprise to see them in the scoresheets: the Milan right back even scored a pretty goal on an open play.

Flops of the round. The defences of Bologna, Torino, Udinese and Verona were already headed for tough games, but the blunders of Sebastien De Maio and Nicolas Burdisso did not help. Napoli’s Mario Rui and Pepe Reina had a miscommunication on Lorenzo De Silvestri’s score, which was probably more on the fullback. Gianluigi Buffon sent an errant pass towards Daniele Rugani, who caused a penalty. Sampdoria did not show up in Sassuolo. Not exactly flops, but Gonzalo Higuain and Ivan Perisic did not join the goal fest thrown by their teammates and Edin Dzeko had a quiet outing.

Clutch goal of the day. Not a ton of late-game heroics in this one, the shut-out goes to Fiorentina’s Bryan Dabo timely trail on a feed by Diego Falcinelli to complete the comeback and defeat Genoa.

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Frenetic second half sees Fiorentina take a 3-2 win at Genoa

Fiorentina continued their hunt for a place in the Europa League with a hard-earned and frenetic 3-2 away win over Genoa on Sunday afternoon. Just under 1,000 Viola supporters packed in the away section in the top tier of the side stand inside the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, and the squad celebrated the victory together with them at the end of the match.

It had been a relatively uneventful first half, Fiorentina dominating the play and finally taking the lead through midfielder Marco Benassi. Yet the curse of the ex would rear its head once again when former Viola striker Giuseppe Rossi levelled the scores on 64 minutes.

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Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 35

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Here are the updates on few players’ conditions ahead of the upcoming round.

Juventus: Giorgio Chiellini suffered a hamstring (biceps femoris) strain just above the knee and will miss at least three weeks, with the risk of not returning this season. Mattia De Sciglio is out with a plantar fascia injury, Stefano Sturaro with a sore Achilles.

Napoli: no absentees other than the usual one Faouzi Ghoulam.

Roma: Diego Perotti and Kevin Strootman have already been ruled out due to an ankle sprain and a rib contusion. El Monito’s ailment is more severe since there is some ligament damage. Gregoire Defrel and Rick Karsdorp remain out following knee surgeries.  Continue reading

Fiorentina Boss Stefano Pioli Refuses to Blame Bad Luck after Sassuolo Defeat

Several mitigating factors on the day meant Fiorentina could be forgiven for losing their second match in a row, this time defeated by Sassuolo on Saturday evening. After a controversial match at home to Lazio in the previous midweek in which they lost 4-3, the Viola had goalkeeper Marco Sportiello suspended after his sending off in that encounter.

They were also missing senior midfielder Milan Badelj through injury and regular centre-back German Pezzella due to an accumulation of yellow cards, while remembering they are already having to play the remainder of the season without his defensive partner Davide Astori after this tragic death. Such a lengthy list of absentees meant that young and inexperienced right back Nikola Milenkovic had to move in-field to partner Vitor Hugo in central defence, and the problems didn’t stop there for the Viola.

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