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Match Preview: Fiorentina v Lazio

Serie A Week 9 – Sunday 9 October 2022 – Stadio Artemio Franchi | Preview by Enrico Passarella

Lazio have been remarkably consistent in the last few weeks, taking advantage of an easy schedule, and will take their improved form into a challenging bout with Fiorentina, who have been see-sawing and depleted, but are generally combative.


Fiorentina have been highly disappointing so far, but, differently from issues affecting other sides, it’s not hard to identify what has been hurting them. They have been ravaged by injuries to centerpieces, and the worst part is that some are lingering rather than sidelining the player in question for a while and then going away. The substitutes have rarely been up to snuff.

The most costly loss has been Nicolas Gonzalez, who became their technical leader in the final months of last season, but he has been in and out of the lineup with a heel problem so far. In addition, Riccardo Sottil, who isn’t at the same level but is pretty similar skill-wise and very peppy, has also been routinely slowed down by back pain.

Such a negative combination has opened up a big hole on the left flank. They could have offset it if the rest of the trident was humming; instead, the other forwards have mostly struggled or, at best, been very inconsistent. They were hoping Luka Jovic would rediscover his touch or that Arthur Cabral would complete his transition to Serie A this year, but neither has come true yet. The former has looked like a fish out of water and lacked conditioning, while the latter proved that there is a big gap between the Swiss league and the Italian one. The Serb finally returned to the stat sheet versus Hearts midweek, and they will be hoping that will be enough to get him going.

Vincenzo Italiano has opted to bench them both in a pair of recent tilts, going with Christian Kouamé as false-nine. He used to be a second striker in the past, so he can technically do it, but moving him from the flank to the middle of the attack hasn’t paid dividends. He has been bottled up, and that’s normal since his forte is to take opponents on in space.

The positive news is that their offensive defects haven’t destroyed their courage and self-confidence, nor affected their usual bold game plan. They continue to be proactive, hold the ball a lot, and try to go toe-to-toe with any adversary. Their defense has held up for the most part, even though Nikola Milenkovic has missed some time. But the strategy is not sustainable if you can’t capitalize on chances.

The only truly baffling faux-pas thus far came versus Bologna. They have been one of the few that contained Napoli, they outplayed Juventus, although it ended in a draw, and they measured up with the high-flying Udinese and Atalanta despite coming up short. Therefore, while their point output and run of results are quite awful on the surface, they aren’t in a full-fledged crisis.

Their identity is solid enough to climb in a hurry if one of the strikers starts producing. Whether that will happen is a major question mark, though. In the meantime, Italiano is testing new solutions, for instance, going with 4-2-3-1 to advance Antonin Barak, who was a fury as a no.10 in Verona, while he hasn’t been as good as a box-to-box here.

They can’t wait till January for a prolific forward, and it’s not a given the management will bring in one since they invested in Cabral and the Jovic deal, while cheap, was pretty convoluted. Perhaps they can cut bait, but there’s a long way to go before the next window. If neither shows up, the only alternative is to be airtight in the back and make do with the production of other contributors. Gonzalez, Barak, and Giacomo Bonaventura have a few goals in them, but they also require the other attackers to chip in.

Jonathan Ikoné finally hit the net two matches ago, but he’s highly frustrating because he moves around a lot and glides past defenders at will, but he doesn’t have the proper killer instinct in the box. Sottil and Kouamé are in the same vein. They can give fits to everybody with their constant motion up front, and they are compact and intense in the passive phase, but it’s tough to win consistently with no end product.

Barak is available after missing the midweek tilt against Hearts, but his fitness level is a question mark. They can go in a few different directions to eventually replace him. Instead, if fit enough to get the nod, they could spare Giacomo Bonaventura initially. Igor, Gonzalez, and Dodo are in similar spots, as they are good to go following injuries, but they might not be able to go to distance and could therefore begin on the bench.

Expected XI (4-3-3):  Terracciano; Venuti, Milenkovic, Martinez Quarta, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Amrabat, Barak; Ikoné, Jovic, Kouamé. 


Fiorentina v Lazio


Lazio have hit their stride in the past month, as they have notched three straight shot-out victories for the first time with Maurizio Sarri at the helm. After a so-so start where they left something on the table, they returned to their roots of pummeling minnows, which is understandable since their firepower is enough on its own to overwhelm lesser opponents. It has been their signature trait for years. That surely keeps them in contention for a European berth, but they need to improve their record against better sides to aim for even loftier goals.

The gaffer downplayed the notion that they belong to the Scudetto fray, but everybody does in the early going, at least until the table fully takes shape. They can go mano-a-mano with anybody in terms of top-tier talent, but they do lack the depth of the most credible contenders. It’s noticeable when one of their centerpieces is missing.

Their improvement mostly stems from the natural progression of having continuity on the bench, and the Tuscan boss has always had a substantial leap in his second campaign than from the summer window. They have pulled off a few interesting moves, but Alessio Romagnoli has been the only day-one starter among the newcomers. The others have yet to either be integrated or beat out their competitors. The ex-Milan man isn’t the greatest defender in the world, but he’s an upgrade over Francesco Acerbi because he’s more accustomed to playing with a three-man defense and is less of a freelancer.

They probably envisioned Marcos Antonio becoming the anchor of the midfield in a relatively short amount of time, but Danilo Cataldi has given them no reason to bench him. In addition, they need a more physical guy in such role when they field Luis Alberto; otherwise, they risk being too light. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic busts his tail in the defensive phase too, but it’s clear that his natural inclination is to focus on the final third. He began the campaign with a few jaw-dropping assists for Ciro Immobile, and their chemistry is amazing, and he added some goals too in the most recent matches. He registered a double-double in 2021/2022, and he’s on track to do even better. The Biancocelesti are surely hard bargainers, and he’s not a youngster anymore, but it remains a mystery why elite clubs haven’t made serious efforts to acquire him yet.

They brought in two new talented center-backs, Nicolò Casale and Mario Gila, but Patric has done the same as Cataldi, and his agility is an asset in the back. The former Verona starlet will probably unseat him at some point, as he came out of the blue and was instantly a stud last year, but he has to fully learn the system first and has also been slowed down by an injury.

They have perfected their 4-3-3 over the summer, and, with Pedro hobbled by recurrent ankle issues, Felipe Anderson and Matteo Zaccagni have enjoyed an uptick of playing time. They are both in a groove and can take opponents on with ease, wreaking havoc. The strength of their attack, on top of having two incredibly gifted box-to-box midfielders, also comes from the fact that their wingers are versatile since they can do damage both by crossing from the flank or by dishing feeds or finishing on their own when they cut through the defense. The clutchness of Ciro Immobile in the box and the immense pressure he puts on the offside trap contribute to making them one of the most potent frontlines in the league. He’s too often taken for granted, but his success over the years shouldn’t be overlooked.

As for the lineup, the usual doubt is whether Alberto will start or if the gaffer will choose a more muscular guy, which generally happens in matches he considers tighter or more challenging, giving the nod to either Matias Vecino or Toma Basic. Romagnoli, Casale, and Mario Gila are all reportedly not 100 percent, so the choice might come down to who’s feeling better.

Expected XI (4-3-3): Provedel; Lazzari, Patric, Romagnoli, Marusic; Milinkovic-Savic, Cataldi, Vecino; Felipe Anderson, Immobile, Zaccagni. 


Fiorentina: Castrovilli (ACL tear). 

Lazio: Fares (ACL tear). 

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