MX23RW : Tuesday, August 3 08:30:21| >> :600:428366:428366:
Feb 19, 2021 at 5.30pm UK at Stadio Artemio Franchi
FiorentinaFiorentina
3-0
SpeziaSpezia
Vlahovic (51'), Castrovilli (65'), Eysseric (83')
Amrabat (18'), Eysseric (75'), Valero (77'), Martinez (90+2')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Fiorentina vs. Spezia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's Serie A clash between Fiorentina and Spezia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

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.


Match preview

Spezia's Simone Bastoni celebrates scoring their second goal on February 13, 2021© Reuters

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's Nikola Milenkovic pictured in action in Serie A on July 22, 2020© Reuters

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


Team News

Fiorentina manager Cesare Prandelli pictured in November 2020© Reuters

Cesare Prandelli can prepare for Friday's game with his squad at almost full fitness, with the exception of veteran forward Franck Ribery, who is still struggling with a muscular issue. The still influential Frenchman remains a doubt, but otherwise Fiorentina can field a settled side in Prandelli's familiar 3-5-2 formation.

Sofyan Amrabat returns from suspension last week to compete with Giacomo Bonaventura and out-of-form Gaetano Castrovilli for a place in La Viola's midfield trio, alongside Erick Pulgar. Meanwhile, in attack, Valentin Eysseric and last week's starter Christian Kouame are in direct competition to partner Dusan Vlahovic, with January signing Aleksandr Kokorin also available on the bench.

Frustratingly, after their fine showings in keeping Milan at bay, Spezia coach Vincenzo Italiano will be without defenders Martin Erlic and Simone Bastoni due to suspension for bookings accumulated. Furthermore, Salva Ferrer and Claudio Terzi are injured, so a defensive reshuffle is required.

Luca Vignali, Ardian Ismajli, Julian Chabot and Riccardo Marchizza could comprise the makeshift back four, while Kevin Agudelo may continue as a 'false nine' in the ongoing absence of M'Bala Nzola - though Bulgarian front man Andrey Galabinov is ready to offer a more conventional centre-forward's threat if required.

Fiorentina possible starting lineup:
Dragowski; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Martinez Quarta; Caceres, Amrabat, Pulgar, Castrovilli, Biraghi; Eysseric, Vlahovic

Spezia possible starting lineup:
Provedel; Vignali, Ismajli, Chabot, Marchizza; Estevez, Ricci, Maggiore; Gyasi, Agudelo, Saponara


SM words green background

We say: Fiorentina 1-1 Spezia

Only Fiorentina's superior home form offers enough evidence to back the hosts for a score draw against one of the best promoted sides in recent years.

Defensive absences and the inevitable comedown from their historic victory last Saturday could take the edge off Spezia's performance levels, so they will be quite happy to return to Liguria with a point.


Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic pictured in action in Serie A on July 22, 2020
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina29171662
United StatesUnited States22251764
JapanJapan1761033
AustraliaAustralia1441533
Olympics flagRussian Olympic Committee12211750
Great BritainGreat Britain11121235
Today's Olympic highlights header

Tuesday's key events


DIVING
· Team GB duo Jack Laugher - silver medallist in Rio - and James Heatly take part in the men's 3m springboard semi-final (2am), and will hope to qualify for the final later in the day (7am)

ATHLETICS
· Two Britons are involved in the women's long jump final, but Abigail Irozuru and Jazmin Sawyers have their work cut out to get a spot on the podium (2.50am)
· Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who broke the world record just last month, goes for gold in the men's 400m hurdles final. USA's Rai Benjamin is expected to be his main challenger (4.20am)
· Great Britain have three representatives in the final of the women's 800m, with Jemma Reekie having perhaps the best chance of a medal (1.25pm)
· A mouth-watering women's 200m final sees Elaine Thompson-Herah go for the prestigious sprint double after claiming the 100m crown. Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Namibia's Christine Mboma and USA's Gabrielle Thomas are expected to be her main competitors (1.50pm)

SAILING
· The rescheduled women's skiff 49er FX (4.33am) and men's skiff 49er (5.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races
· Defending champion Giles Scott bids for a second successive gold in the Finn class medal race (6.33am)
· There is another medal chance for Team GB in the mixed Nacra 17 medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Joe Fraser takes part in the parallel bars final, kicking off the final day of artistic gymnastics (9am)
· USA superstar Simone Biles, who has been forced to pull out of all of her finals so far, is on the starting list for the beam final as she bids for a fifth Olympic gold (9.50am)

FOOTBALL
· The men's semi-finals take place, with Mexico taking on Brazil first up (9am)
· The winner of that first semi-final will face either hosts Japan or Spain (2pm)

CYCLING
· Laura Kenny will look to win a third straight Olympic team pursuit gold medal. Team GB take on United States in their heat (7.44am), with the gold medal race later that day (9.26am)
· Laura's husband and fellow Olympic legend Jason Kenny will also look to continue his huge success in the men's team sprint - an event he has won gold in at every Games since 2008. Team GB will first need to get through the men's qualifying (7.58am), with the gold medal race ending the session (9.44am)

BOXING
· Pat McCormack will be looking to achieve his dream of Olympic gold when he faces Cuba's Roniel Iglesias (11.05am)

> Today's schedule in full
Todays Game Header Right
Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Atalanta BCAtalanta00000000
2Bologna00000000
3CagliariCagliari00000000
4Empoli00000000
5Fiorentina00000000
6Genoa00000000
7Hellas VeronaHellas Verona00000000
8Inter Milan00000000
9Juventus00000000
10Lazio00000000
11AC Milan00000000
12Napoli00000000
13Roma00000000
14Salernitana00000000
15Sampdoria00000000
16SassuoloSassuolo00000000
17SpeziaSpezia00000000
18Torino00000000
19Udinese00000000
20VeneziaVenezia00000000

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