Juventus will play Fiorentina three times in 12 days, the first two at the Juventus Stadium, in Serie A and Europa League. It would be nice to start the series with a statement, intimidating them for the next two matches, but that’s unlikely to happen and we all remember the unprecedented meltdown in the first meeting between the two. They will be three tense clashes, probably followed by a silly battle of words afterward, considering how enraged they already are because of the Valero ban and other adverse events.
Fiorentina aren’t in their best moment (playing multiple games without a full roster is taking its toll): they have lost three times in five matches (against Cagliari, Inter and Lazio) and haven’t won in three games in Serie A. They rank sixths for home record (7 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses) and fourths for away record (6-3-4).
Of course, the lack of a high volume scorer is hurting them. Pepito Rossi was a unique threat because of his skill set combined with his finishing abilities. Matri started with a bang, but then he has been the Matri we all know. Mario Gomez has just returned after sitting out for long time due to a knee injury. He admitted he doesn’t know yet how his teammates play and that he has to find the rhythm.
Without a fierce scorer, this year’s Fiorentina looks a lot like last year’s Fiorentina: an unfinished product, that can’t capitalize all the chances they have. Still, it’s a very good possession-oriented, offensive-minded team that plays an enjoying style of football. Their average possession is 59%, mostly thanks to short passess (462 per game). Montella has been the first to constantly use a midfield trio (Aquilani-Pizarro-Valero) without including a real defensive midfielder and it has paid off. They defend through attacking, holding on the ball and controlling the game in the opponents’ half.
Borja Valero won’t be available in the Serie A match, but he will be there in Europa League. Without Rossi, he’s Fiorentina’s most important player and his creativity and his unceasing movement to find room are the primary offensive threat. Cuadrado has started scoring lately and is exiting from his slump, he’s terrific and almost uncontainable when on, but he has been off most of the season.
Fiorentina have the ability and the men to play with both 3-5-2 and 4-3-3. In the first case, Cuadrado is used as RWB and there will be a second striker/CAM (Ilicic or Joaquin) that knits the play between the lines. In the second case, Cuadrado is more offensive and Vargas or Joaquin occupies the other flank, spreading the floor and crossing more, with Tomovic sliding on the flank to play as RB. In these three matches, we’ll likely see both solutions. They have played with two real centre forwards for a really limited amount of time: it could be one more dart in Montella’s quiver to throw at Conte in desperate times.
Even though they aren’t really a team that shuts down the opponent, they are quietly tied with Inter, Parma and Napoli as 3rd best defense in Serie A with 29 goals conceded (they have been on their own for most part of the season but other teams have caught them recently). An interesting defensive line, captained by the poise of Gonzalo Rodriguez that is also very good at starting the action.
Recently they also tried a lineup with both Cuadrado and Vargas (and not Pasqual) in a Juventus-style 3-5-2, where the wingbacks are in a very high position when the team is attacking. Free kicks is something to keep an eye on: Mati Fernandez (who has turned into a reliable Valero backup) and Ilicic have recently scored two beauties and even though they haven’t scored as much as last year on set pieces, they are still very dangerous.