After sputtering to a defeat against AC Milan, Fiorentina will try its luck in the Coppa Italia. The opponent? Atalanta, of course; this will be their 4th meeting in 6 years in the cup, so it was always going to happen. In 140 previous meetings, the Viola own a W62 D44 L34 record, including W5 D1 L4 over their past 10 meetings; for whatever reason, la Dea seems to have a lot of trouble with Firenze’s finest. Don’t forget that they’ve got a make-up game left in Serie A, too, after Joe Barone’s sudden passing forced a postponement of the league clash last month.

The referee for this one is 42-year-old Maurizio Mariani of Rome. In 21 appearances this year, he’s handed out 94 yellow cards, 8 red cards, and 8 penalties. Under his direction, Fiorentina holds a W8 D2 L5 record. Last time we saw him, weirdly enough, was in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal last year, which ended with a decisive 0-2 win for the good guys.

The match will be played on Wednesday, 3 April 2024, at 7:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a cool, cloudy evening with some gusting winds. Should be a lovely evening but the stadium probably won’t be all that full, considering that it’s a week night. Even so, there should be plenty of fans ready to greet a certain visiting manager with all the usual fanfare.

Fiorentina

It’s been a beige season for the Viola and looks to get beiger yet. The team’s fallen all the way to 10th, just 1 point ahead of 11th place Monza. Even with that game in hand, qualifying for Europe again via Serie A looks like a tall order with Lazio, Napoli, and Torino all ahead in the standings and just as desperate. In short, any return to a continental competition requires success in either the Coppa Italia or the Conference League. In the Coppa, all that separates Fiorentina from the Europa League is 270 minutes, including 180 against la Dea. It’s possible.

Felt pensive. Might delete later.

Manager Vincenzo Italiano will, for perhaps the first time all year, have his entire squad available. Oliver Christensen may be too rusty to start between the sticks but we should see Nico González, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Arthur Melo return to the fold. The real question is who gets the nod on the wing opposite Nico—Jonathan Ikoné or Riccardo Sottil—and what the engine room looks like; if Jack steps in next to Arthur, it’ll be a clear statement of intent by Italiano to dominate the game. Perhaps sticking him on the left wing would provide more balance, but there are plenty of other options as well.

Rather than counterpressing, Atalanta tends to sit deep and soak up pressure these days. With a bunch of physical players throughout the XI, they’re happy to remain in their defensive shape and wait for the exact right moment to trap, win the ball, and gallop the other way. That defensive shape, by the way, is fantastic. They shut down passing angles and basically keep opponents passing around the back for extended periods, frustrating them and controlling the game without the ball. Does this sound like a bad thing for Fiorentina? Well, yeah.

Atalanta

Death. Taxes. Atalanta qualifying for Europe despite a budget that’s only a fraction of what its direct competitors spend. They’re doing it again. Of course they’re doing it again. Sitting a comfortable 6th, just 2 points behind AS Roma and 4 ahead of Lazio, the Europa League beckons even without a successful Coppa Italia campaign, despite the looming colossus of Liverpool in the Europa League quarterfinal, winning that competition would see them return to the Champions League.

Manager Gian Piero Gasperini won’t have CB Giorgio Scalvini or CF Charles de Ketalaere, but that doesn’t really change his approach. It’ll be the ever-present 3-4-1-2 with Martin de Roon sitting deepest of the midfielders and pretty much everyone else taking it in turns to whirl forward when the opportunity arises. CM Teun Koopmeiners (11 goals, 3 assists) has become a lethal finisher from midfield, but CF Ademola Lookman (8 goals, 3 assists) and CF Gianluca Scamacca (7 goals, 3 assists) have shouldered their fair share as well. And c’mon, you know la Dea: literaly any of these dudes can pop up in the box to slot home a cross at the back post. That’s their entire brand.

Gasperini has moved Atalanta away from a possession-dominant side and more into a transitional one to great effect. This edition of la Dea attacks space in behind as well as anyone. The threat is the vertical passing to intelligent attackers who are fantastic at finding gaps in the defense and combining through tight spaces. It’s less about sheer pace and more about runs coming from unexpected angles and directions to breach the opposing back line and then find cutbacks. Fiorentina needs to communicate really well to keep those runners under wraps. After a failure to do so against Milan, this is a chance to get it right.

Possible lineups

Fiorentina: Terracciano; Kayode, Ranieri, Milenković, Biraghi; Arthur, Mandragora; González, Bonaventura, Sottil; Belotti      Atalanta: Carnesecchi; Tolói, Djimsiti, Hien; Holm, de Roon, Ederson, Zappacosta; Koopmeiners; Lookman, Scamacca

Mandragora or Duncan, Sottil or Ikoné, Bonaventura or Beltrán; Hien or Kolašinaċ, Ederson or Adopo
Made using Share My Tactics

How to watch

TV: It’s the only major Italian game going, so check the full international television listings.

Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

The bookmakers are clearly uncertain about this one, with Atalanta holding a very slight edge in the odds. That makes sense, given the respective trajectories of these two: Atalanta just thumped Napoli 0-3 and held Juventus to a 2-2 draw, while Fiorentina’s won just 2 league games in 2024. However, the Viola tend to play la Dea pretty tough, as I mentioned, and have the added benefit of playing at home.

I’ll call it an exciting 2-1 win for the good guys, setting up an extraordinarily tense finale in Bergamo in 3 weeks. Goals from Nico (from the spot), Bonaventura against his former employer, and the red-hot Koopmeiners seem like decent bets. The game itself will probably be more tactical than heart-pumping, with long stretches of sterile Fiorentina possession punctuated by end-to-end action following loss of possession. Bonus points for Gasperini getting royally cheesed off at the home support and saying something to get himself booked or fined at some point too.

Forza Viola!

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