Saturday, December 4
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Nov 27, 2021 at 2pm UK
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Torreira (51')

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

:Headline: Preview: Empoli vs. Fiorentina - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Serie A clash between Empoli and Fiorentina, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Following a memorable home win last weekend, Fiorentina take the short trip to Empoli on Saturday, as the two Serie A rivals convene for a Tuscan derby.

Both teams are exceeding expectations so far this season, as the Viola's victory over Milan sees them sit just a point below fifth, while their hosts have won five times already to lift themselves into mid-table security.

Match preview

Wildly inconsistent but often entertaining, Fiorentina unleashed perhaps their best display of the Vincenzo Italiano era so far last Saturday night, as they pulled apart a previously solid Milan defence under the floodlights at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

After opening up a barely believable three-goal lead by the hour mark, the Viola were pegged back by a quickfire Zlatan Ibrahimovic brace, before star striker Dusan Vlahovic then completed his own double strike to help the hosts edge a seven-goal thriller.

Now the division's top scorer alongside Ciro Immobile, the much-admired Vlahovic has netted 27 goals in 37 Serie A games during 2021 so far - six more than any other player since the turn of the year. Indeed, in the top five European leagues, only Robert Lewandowski has fared better in front of goal during the past 11 months.

With Italiano's progressive style also getting the best out of the mercurial ex-Empoli forward Riccardo Saponara - who delightfully curled in the second goal against the Rossoneri - Fiorentina's front line is to be feared by teams up and down the peninsula and the club have realistic aims of securing European football next spring.

Such lofty heights must be an appropriate ambition for the upwardly mobile side, as they have finished inside the top five in every other Serie A campaign in which they have tallied more than 20 points from their first 13 games.

They are, though, undermined by their inability to string together positive results, as Fiorentina have won seven and lost six so far this term, including 1-0 defeats in each of their last three away fixtures. The club last lost four straight away matches back in 2013, so Italiano will not want to match that run when they meet one of their local rivals on Saturday.

After they picked up their fourth point from a possible six just before the international break with a 2-2 draw against Genoa, promoted Empoli moved closer to the top six than the bottom three.

Though the Azzurri returned to league action on Monday with a last-gasp loss at form side Verona, they remain 12th in the Serie A standings and have established themselves as a team to be wary of for any opponent.

Veteran coach Aurelio Andreazzoli has praised his relatively youthful squad for its application and versatility, and several interchangeable attacking options have given the side an unpredictable quality in the final third.

Adrien Tameze's stoppage time strike may have denied Andreazzoli's men a valuable point at the Bentegodi last time out, but most of their best results have nonetheless come on the road this term - with a commendable four wins from five previous away games.

However, as they prepare to welcome their Viola adversaries to Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli have gained only four points from their seven home fixtures since promotion; representing their worst start to a Serie A campaign on home soil.

Their loyal fans would love nothing more than to improve that record at the expense of their more illustrious neighbours from Florence on Saturday, and keep the positive momentum going into matches with Torino and Udinese during the coming week.

Empoli Serie A form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • L

Fiorentina Serie A form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W

Team News

Vincenzo Italiano will be heartened by the return of some defensive personnel, who are available to supplement the team which defeated Milan.

Both Lucas Martinez Quarta and Nikola Milenkovic return from suspension, and either could join Igor in Fiorentina's centre-back pairing, allowing Lorenzo Venuti to return to a more familiar full-back role. He will, though have to compete with current incumbent Alvaro Odriozola for a start.

Stand-in goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano continues as the Viola's last line of defence, but Bartlomiej Dragowski has recently returned to full training and should soon be ready for the bench.

Erick Pulgar remains out of action, but Marco Benassi is now available in midfield, while Nicolas Gonzalez could vie with Jose Callejon for a place in the front three upon his return from COVID-19 infection.

The home side, meanwhile, have managed to steer clear of many serious injuries this term, and are once again near full strength this weekend.

Among Empoli's options up front are Patrick Cutrone - who has scored twice in his four Serie A matches against Fiorentina; a club he played 30 league games for between 2019 and 2021 - young Inter loanee Andrea Pinamonti and last season's top scorer Leonardo Mancuso.

Federico Di Francesco should also feature in the Azzurri attack, starting ahead of Nedim Bajrami in an advanced midfield role.

Empoli possible starting lineup:
Vicario; Stojanovic, Luperto, Romagnoli, Marchizza; Henderson, Ricci, Haas; Di Francesco; Pinamonti, Mancuso

Fiorentina possible starting lineup:
Terracciano; Venuti, Milenkovic, Igor, Biraghi; Duncan, Bonaventura, Torreira; Gonzalez, Vlahovic, Saponara

We say: Empoli 1-2 Fiorentina

Though following up the emotional high of bettering Milan at the Franchi is a tough task for Fiorentina, they have discovered an attacking confidence this season which will help them seal back-to-back victories just down the road in Empoli.

Vlahovic and his supporting cast can prise apart the hosts' defence on more than one occasion, prolonging their lacklustre record at the Castellani.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 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 2.5:data

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