Preview: Fiorentina vs. Spezia

Having earned headlines and praise following their deserved win over the league leaders last week, Serie A surprise package Spezia now travel to meet Fiorentina on Friday evening.

Defeating mighty Milan on home turf took the Ligurian side 12th in the table, some two points and four places above this week’s hosts, whose form has started to slide.
Continuing to defy expectations of a swift return to Serie B following their first-ever top-flight campaign, Spezia took their admirable adaptation to the top flight up another level last weekend, as they downed erstwhile leaders Milan in the humble environs of Stadio Alberto Picco.

The Rossoneri failed to register a shot on target, as Vincenzo Italiano’s enterprising side sealed a 2-0 win thanks to second-half strikes from Giulio Maggiore (incidentally, an Inter fan) and Simone Bastoni – both home-grown talents who came through the club’s primavera.

Before recording perhaps their greatest result, the Aquilotti had only picked up four home points in a so-far successful season – which started with their games being staged in Cesena. Ahead of the trip to Tuscany this week, their contrasting record on the road represents the best of all Serie A sides outside the established top seven.

Spezia have lost only one of their last four away games – versus Roma, who they had previously knocked out of the Coppa Italia – after posting impressive victories over Napoli and Sassuolo and sharing the spoils with draw specialists Torino.

Recently being offered more starting time, with top scorer M’Bala Nzola missing through injury for several weeks, on-loan Kevin Agudelo – who spent some of last year at Fiorentina to little effect – was named man of the match after running the show against Milan.

Demonstrating great awareness and guile in an unfamiliar role, the Colombian’s performance as a ‘false nine’ was “insane”, according to one post-match report in the Italian media. He will now hope Italiano offers him an opportunity to show the Viola what they are missing this Friday.
Fiorentina will prepare to face highly-confident opponents at Artemio Franchi having suffered back-to-back defeats against Sampdoria and Inter to leave them down in 16th place in the standings.
Defeated 2-1 in their last Serie A outing at Marassi, with Fabio Quagliarella’s second-half winner for Samp extending the Viola’s winless streak to three, they are still in touch with a tightly-packed mid-table bunch but are also now just two places above the dreaded dotted line. Defender Nikola Milenkovic missed a gilt-edged chance at the death to snatch a rare away point, as Fiorentina’s woeful form on the road continues.

The bulk of their points haul to date has come at home (16 out of 22 so far), so Cesare Prandelli’s side can tackle Spezia’s visit with a certain measure of confidence themselves, despite their travails in front of goal.

Clearly lacking thrust in the final third, having been provided with a number of mediocre options by the club’s underwhelming recruitment strategy, Prandelli has adopted a pragmatic approach since his return to the dugout late last year. It has not been an entirely happy homecoming for the former Azzurri tactician, winning only four and losing eight in his second spell at Artemio Franchi.

The Viola’s tally of 22 goals scored is the second-worst in the league after hapless Parma (on 14) and only Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic’s eight goals have offered hope to their long-suffering fans.

Twenty-one-year-old Vlahovic has earned Prandelli’s praise for his intensity and desire – if not his tendency for selfishness – and the youngest debutant in Partizan Belgrade’s history, back in 2016, will be keen to continue his most productive Serie A spell this weekend.

Fiorentina Serie A form: WLWDLL
Fiorentina form (all competitions): LLWDLL

Spezia Serie A form: WDLLWW
Spezia form (all competitions): WLLLWW

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