Fiorentina and Juventus will both be seeking to finish the Serie A season on a high note when they lock horns on Saturday night at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

The enthralling 2021-22 Serie A season concludes this weekend with plenty to play for. Saturday night’s Serie A encounter at Stadio Artemio Franchi pits together Fiorentina and Juventus. The Bianconeri have already clinched a top-four spot, while Fiorentina faces a last-gasp European tussle when they host their bitter rivals.

Despite spending much of the year hovering around the European places, Fiorentina have been on a downward spiral since losing to Juventus in the Coppa Italia semi-finals. They have won just one of their last five Serie A games, and they looked dreadfully short in the 4-1 defeat at Sampdoria last time out.

This late-season slide has included defeats to bottom-feeders Salernitana and Udinese (4-0 at home) as they dig their own grave to dump their European ambitions. Lazio seems to have done enough to secure a Europa League ticket, currently settled at fifth, while Roma, Atalanta, and Fiorentina are all vying for the second Europa League place.

The hosts head into the final week in seventh place in the table, in the Europa Conference League spot, but that could well be snatched away if they suffer another setback and the result of the Atalanta versus Empoli game goes against them.

So, the brief is pretty simple for Vincenzo Italiano’s men: they need to win their final game of the 2021-22 season on Saturday in order for La Viola to get some kind of European football next season or else risk spending an eighth straight season outside of any continental competition.

However, their task could not be any tougher as they face their fiercest rivals, Juventus, who have made this fixture, even more, tastier and hostile by snatching La Viola’s biggest superstars in recent seasons, namely Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic.

Juventus have already secured the fourth spot in Serie A and will be playing for pride as they wrap up a below-par first season since Massimiliano Allegri’s grand return to Turin, finishing their first season in eleven years without any silverware in their trophy cabinet and recording their lowest points tally since the 2010/11 campaign.

This also means, whatever the result of this fixture might be, Allegri will not be able to beat Andrea Pirlo’s points tally that got him the sack this time last year, and that is despite lifting the Coppa Italia title.

Nevertheless, they are winless in three straight games in all competitions, including a defeat at Genoa and squandering a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 against Lazio last time out. Ending the season on a positive note could be paramount for the visitors, coming on the back of an underwhelming campaign.

Team News & Tactics

Fiorentina

Fiorentina boss Vincenzo Italiano will be able to welcome back Sofyan Amrabat from a one-match ban, but Youssef Maleh looks set to miss out due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Meanwhile, mercurial playmaker Gaetano Castrovilli (knee surgery) will be sidelined, but in a big boost, both Riccardo Sottil and Alvaro Odriozola have shaken off their muscle strains to be available for this crunch tie.

In his first full season in-charge, the former Spezia coach has guided the club from trying to escape relegation 12 months ago or so to the brink of European qualification. This amazing resurgence has been built on an adventurous style of play that has reignited the excitement at the Artemio Franchi Stadium, though goals have dried up since Vlahovic’s departure.

Italiano will set up his team in his preferred 4-3-3 formation, as they look to dominate possession and create chances, especially from wide areas. Pietro Terracciano will start in between the sticks for the hosts, with a back four of Alvaro Odriozola, Nikola Milenkovic, Igor Julio, and Cristiano Biraghi ahead of him.

Amrabat is expected to rotate back into the starting eleven this weekend, which means a reshuffle in the midfield pack, with Alfred Duncan potentially shifting to the left side and Lucas Torreira dropping out after having a poor outing last time out. Meanwhile, Giacomo Bonaventura will offer the creative essence from the right side of midfield-three.

In attack, Nicolas Gonzalez has been involved in most Serie A goals since the start of March in Serie A (2 goals, 4 assists) and will be the home side’s biggest asset with his dazzling runs in behind the opposition’s half to create opportunities for his teammates or fashion one himself.

Arthur Cabral is unlikely to be able to impose himself on physical defenders like Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt, so he will have to refine his movement and try to attack them in space and one-vs-one situations. Jose Callejon could also return as the hosts’ chase goals against Juventus, while Krzysztof Piatek remains a viable option off the bench to make a telling impact.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Terracciano; Odriozola, Milenkovic, Igor, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Amrabat, Duncan; Gonzalez, Cabral, Callejon

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Juventus

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri will be unable to call upon the services of winger Federico Chiesa (cruciate ligament), Danilo (muscular problems), Mattia De Sciglio and striker Kaio Jorge (patella injury) for the trip to Florence. Meanwhile, Federico Bernardeschi looks set to miss out on the final day game after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season during Juve’s 2-2 draw with Lazio, which resulted in a one-game suspension in Serie A.

In positive news, the midfield duo of Arthur and Denis Zakaria have recovered, while USMNT international Weston McKennie has returned to full training and is in contention to feature here. Allegri could look to give youngsters some playing time on the last day of the season, while Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala could both be kept out after bidding an emotional farewell in their final home game for the Bianconeri on Monday.

The Italian manager used an unusual 4-2-3-1 formation against Lazio last time out but can revert to a 4-3-3 for this game to contain Fiorentina’s buzzing wide-attackers.

Second-choice Mattia Perrin was given the nod for the Coppa Italia final and Juventus’ last home game of the season, but Wojciech Szczesny could return in goal for the game against Fiorentina. The Polish shot-stopper will be protected by the central defensive pairing of Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci.

Juan Cuadrado will start down the right in a winger-cum-fullback role, whereas Luca Pellegrini could dislodge an error-prone Alex Sandro in the left-back slot. Fabio Miretti has been a bright spot in the middle of the park for the Old Lady in recent games and should start here with Adrien Rabiot and Manuel Locatelli on either side of the 18-year-old.

It would not be surprising to see an all-striker frontline of Moise Kean, Alvaro Morata, and Vlahovic up front, with their interesting mix of pace, power, aerial prowess, and technical skills largely relied upon to chase long balls and threaten in behind the opposition backline. Should Allegri look to reverse to a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 mid-game, Morata could drop into a wider role.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, De Ligt, Bonucci, Pellegrini; Locatelli, Miretti, Rabiot; Kean, Morata, Vlahovic

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Key Stats

  • Juventus are undefeated in 21 of their last 23 Serie A matches. Fiorentina, on the other hand, have lost five of their last six games.
  • The Bianconeri have lost only two of their last 16 Serie A games against Fiorentina (W11 D3), and they have kept eight clean sheets during this period.
  • Fiorentina have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven Serie A home games, while the Bianconeri have strangely gone seven top-flight games without a clean sheet under Allegri.
  • La Viola have the third-best home record in the division this season, only behind Inter and AC Milan, picking up a total of 38 points from 18 games.
  • This is the fourth meeting between Fiorentina and Juventus in Serie A and Coppa Italia this season, with Juventus claiming a clean-sheet victory on every occasion before this.

Player to Watch

Nicolas Gonzalez

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To their credit, Fiorentina have recruited shrewdly in the last couple of seasons, and eyebrows were raised when they shattered their transfer record to bring in winger Nico Gonzalez, signing from VfB Stuttgart for a €23.5 million fee. The large investment has paid dividends as the Argentine has lived up to the hype this season, tearing through Serie A like a duck to water.

Still only 24, he is not only La Viola’s top scorer in Serie A with 6 goals but is also the leading assist-provider with 7. Not to mention, he has a knack for conjuring a magic moment for his team with his vision, speed, and trickery on the ball. He will certainly be eager to leave his mark in this crucial clash.

Prediction

Fiorentina 3-2 Juventus

Over 2.5 goals have been scored in all four of Juve’s league games this month, while the Viola have averaged two goals per home league game this campaign (36 in 18), so goalmouth action is expected in Florence.

While Allegri’s side have got nothing left to play for, Fiorentina have plenty at stake to motivate them to go for an all-out attack and claim all three points in front of a packed home crowd this weekend, as a victory for the hosts could see them claim their a top-six finish. Hence, despite their woeful record against the visitors this term, the Hard Tackle predicts La Viola to edge a tacky, end-to-end affair to rubber-stamp a place in Europe. 

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