Three defeats from four have left the Viola looking over their shoulders at Serie A’s drop zone, while ninth-placed Verona are seeking to secure successive top-half finishes since returning to the top flight.
Following their dismal 3-1 reverse at Sassuolo on Saturday – where they had just 27% of the possession and saw Giacomo Bonaventura’s superb strike rendered meaningless by leaking three second-half goals – the threat of relegation still lingers for Fiorentina.
Having also conceded three times against Atalanta in their previous outing, they now face the final seven games of the season only five points clear of Cagliari – who sit just below the dreaded dotted line.
Beppe Iachini’s side have picked up only 30 points after 30 matches for the first time since 2001-02, when they were relegated at the end of the season. So, still to secure their top-flight place for next term, the Viola now take on Verona – the first of four members of the top nine they must face during the run-in.
The Tuscan outfit’s dire away form is mostly responsible for their drift down the standings, as their record on the road is better only than Serie B-bound pair Parma and Crotone – with a mere two successes in 15 games away from the Artemio Franchi.
In total, Fiorentina have won only one of their last nine league games under Iachini – who returned to the dugout following Cesare Prandelli’s unexpectedly early departure last month – the last of which was against Udinese in October. Very much a low-cost temporary measure, the club’s supposedly ambitious hierarchy may end up regretting their decision to re-hire the former Palermo boss come the end of another troubled season.
With club president Rocco Commisso declaring a media silence and sending his team to a ‘ritiro’ (training retreat) after their latest defeat, there will at least be no distractions for the struggling side ahead of their trip north.
Verona’s 1-0 loss to Lazio last week saw Ivan Juric’s well-drilled side concede their first goal in three games and their so-far successful campaign has been built on an admirably resilient rearguard.
However, an uncharacteristic second-half collapse at Sampdoria on Saturday brought about a second straight defeat – with the Scaligeri shipping three goals to their closest rivals in the Serie A standings. In all, they have now lost five of their last six games.
Still hoping to hold onto a top-half finish next month, it is the misfiring Hellas attack which poses Juric most cause for concern. While they were unable to muster a single shot on target against Lazio, their only goal at the weekend came through a delicious free-kick from wing-back Danko Lazovic.
Once more highlighting their ongoing problems in the final third, Samp supremo Claudio Ranieri could make a triple substitution at half-time – bringing on Keita Balde, Antonio Candreva and Manolo Gabbiadini, with all three contributing to their goals – as the short-handed Juric could only turn to goal-shy loan striker Andrea Favilli.
Centre-forward Kevin Lasagna had been far from prolific for former club Udinese before joining the Gialloblu in January as cover for injury-stricken summer signing Nikola Kalinic and has also failed to fire since moving to Veneto. As a result, Verona have the weakest scoring record in the top half of the table.
Nonetheless, the hosts will expect to find the net against Fiorentina’s dubious defence this time out, with their visitors providing a presentable opportunity to get back on track ahead of a trip to leaders Inter Milan next week.