It is fast-approaching game time and most Interisti are excited beyond belief. I know we at SoM certainly are.
In the spirit of brotherly cooperation, we reached out to The Tito, aka Tito Kohout, site manager for Viola Nation to get his take on Sunday’s season opener between Inter Milan and Fiorentina. We asked each other the same questions and you can read my responses here.
So, now we can know our opponent …
As we head into this Serie A season, what’s going on at Fiorentina that makes you feel pretty good? Conversely, what’s going on that’s got you feeling not so good?
Tito: Honestly, we’re feeling pretty good about the youth movement at Fiorentina right now. Losing the old guard for outrageously low prices still hurts a lot, but it had become clear the the team had hit its ceiling using the “rehabilitate rejects from big teams and bank on big years from career journeymen” model, and something had to change. The Viola have brought in a tone of exciting new talent that should set the club on solid footing to compete in the next few years. The problem, of course, is that those theoretical “next few years” aren’t right now, and Fiorentina, on pure talent, are probably no more than a midtable side right now; I wouldn’t be shocked at a finish in the double-digit places in Serie A for another year or two while the kids get settled in and become stars.
What grade would you give Fiorentina’s mercato? Who’s going to have the biggest impact on the team? Who’s the biggest waste of time and energy?
Tito: It’s hard to grade Fiorentina’s mercato right now, because 1) you have to figure out the team’s intentions and then grade it in context and 2) because there should be at least one, and maybe more, very good players arriving before the end of August. So, acknowledging that the Viola are tearing down their current project and restarting from scratch, which is the correct decision, I’ll give the mercato a C+. If, say, three of the horde of youngsters they’ve brought in pan out, we’ll be thrilled. However, even if you’re rebuilding, you don’t have to ditch your veterans--Borja and Gonzalo--for peanuts, and those episodes have left a bad taste. The best purchase thus far sure looks like Marco Benassi, who looks like he’ll thrive under Pioli. The worst, to me, looks like rightback Bruno Gaspar. He’s got a lot of talent, but he got torn apart by Parma in a friendly earlier this week and doesn’t seem like he’s on the same page as the rest of the back line. He may turn out to be a good one, but he’s been abject so far.
For this match in particular, which Viola player is going to be most important? Who’s got the best matchup? Who are you worried about?
Tito: I want to say that Federico Chiesa is the most important player in the side because he’s the most fun to watch, but Davide Astori means more to the team right now. He’s the second-oldest guy in the squad at 30 years old, but he’s got a wealth of experience that he’ll need to draw on to organize a back line that will have two Serie A newbies in Vitor Hugo and Bruno Gaspar and is rounded out by Maxi Olivera, who was a part time player last season. As for whose matchup I like most, can the answer be no one? Ugh, if I had to pick, I’ll take Chiesa running at Dalbert, which should at least be entertaining as two really talented young players tee off on each other. On the other side, I really don’t like the idea of this untested defense dealing with Mauro Icardi, who’s going to present a challenge that Gaspar and Hugo haven’t ever seen before.
Which Nerazzurri player are you most anxious to face? Which one are you looking forward to picking on?
Tito: Definitely most anxious about facing Borja Valero. Sure, we still don’t know all the details surrounding his exit from Florence, yadda yadda yadda, but that dude loved the city and turfing him out was a betrayal of the lowest order. He’s probably going to run circles around the Viola midfield, and it’ll be hard not to feel like the team has earned it. On the other side, I think that whatever centerback pairing Inter trots out could have trouble with Khouma Babacar or Nikola Kalinić, both of whom are really difficult to deal with in very different ways.
Last of all, let’s do the prediction game so everyone can laugh at us for not knowing a darn thing. What’s the pattern of this match, and what’s the final scoreline?
Tito: Because I’m a good company man, I’ll say that Fiorentina come out with no expectations, play loose and fluid going forward, and look threatening on the break while Inter dominate the ball. Given the lack of cohesion we’ve seen in the preseason among the Viola defense, it’s hard to imagine them not shipping some goals, but I’ll be optimistic and say that the attack will hum right along too. Let’s call it a 2-2 draw, with Icardi notching a two well-taken goals for y’all by beating the offside trap, while Babacar scrambles one over following some chaos in the box created by Chiesa and Benassi smacks home a long-range effort in the dying moments.