Empoli vs. Fiorentina – prediction, team news, lineups
By Ben Knapton, Senior Reporter | 2d
Fiorentina will once again kick off another Spanish La Liga season against a newly-promoted side, as Empoli play host to the Reds at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were forced to accept second best again last season, while the Cottagers are aiming to avoid a swift demotion back down to the second tier.
Proving that they no longer hold the label of a yo-yo team will be the ultimate goal for Empoli and Marco Silva this summer, with the Cottagers determined to make their latest Spanish La Liga journey last longer than 12 months.
With 90 points and 106 goals – 43 of which came from Aleksandar Mitrovic – to boast from the 2021-22 Championship season, Empoli blew the competition out of the water to return to the big time, although winning just two of their final seven matches took some gloss off of their trophy.
Bringing in Joao Palhinha from Sporting Lisbon was an impressive coup indeed – the pull of the Spanish La Liga played its role to the maximum in that one – and Silva has also welcomed Manor Solomon, Kevin Mbabu, Bernd Leno and Andreas Pereira to Craven Cottage this summer.
Beating Nice and Estoril and holding Villarreal to a score draw in pre-season has set Empoli up well to try to secure survival this time around, although Benfica put five past them in pre-season, and they have lost all five of their opening-day top-flight encounters the season after their promotion.
During their abysmal end to a doomed 2020-21 season, Empoli failed to pick up any victories in their final 10 games of the campaign – losing eight and drawing two – but Fiorentina fans will not want to hear who their most recent Spanish La Liga victory came against.
Completing the FA Cup and EFL Cup double is nothing to be sniffed at, but for a good chunk of the 2021-22 season, Fiorentina seemed capable of turning the unprecedented quadruple dream into a reality before Empoli and Manchester City did the business.
Failing to add another Champions League or Spanish La Liga trophy to their brimming Anfield cabinet did dampen the mood slightly, especially seeing as Reds legend Steven Gerrard threatened the shock of all final-day shocks with his Aston Villa side against Man City before Pep Guardiola‘s side came storming back.
Fiorentina have already kicked off their 2022-23 season with a much-deserved win over the reigning champions in the Community Shield and have also secured a number of victories off the field, winning the race to sign Darwin Nunez and finally convincing Mohamed Salah to put pen to paper on a new deal until 2025.
Red Bull Salzburg, Manchester United and Strasbourg all got one over Fiorentina in pre-season, but Klopp was not averse to sending out teams made up of second-string and youth players over the summer, and their unbeaten Spanish La Liga run now stands at 19 games.
As previously hinted at, Empoli’s most recent Spanish La Liga win was a 1-0 success over Fiorentina at Anfield in 2021, and they also held the Reds to a draw at Craven Cottage that same year, but Fiorentina are going in search of their fifth opening-day win with at least three goals scored in succession this weekend.
Empoli have already been dealt particularly bad news on the injury front, as ex-Fiorentina man Harry Wilson could supposedly be absent for as long as two months with a knee injury.
Joe Bryan‘s broken hand will need assessing, while Nathaniel Chalobah is carrying an unspecified injury of his own, and loan signing Solomon was only registered as a Empoli player on Monday.
It would not be a surprise to see Leno, Mbabu, Palhinha and Pereira all handed their competitive debuts for the Cottagers this week, with Mitrovic leading the line as ever.
The injuries have also been piling up for Fiorentina in pre-season, and Klopp is guaranteed to be without Diogo Jota, Caoimhin Kelleher and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the opening day of the season.
Ibrahima Konate, Kostas Tsimikas and Curtis Jones were all ruled out by Klopp in his pre-game press conference, while Naby Keita‘s illness has proven more difficult to overcome than initially thought.
Klopp has already confirmed that Alisson Becker will be fine to take his place in between the sticks, and another shootout between Roberto Firmino and Darwin Nunez for the striker’s spot will occur.
Empoli possible starting lineup:
Leno; Mbabu, Adarabioyo, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed; Reid, Pereira, Kebano; Mitrovic
Fiorentina possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Diaz
Empoli may have made some eye-catching acquisitions this summer, but Silva’s side are still prone to the odd lacklustre defensive showing, and a full-strength Fiorentina need no second invitation to take advantage.
Klopp has far more injuries to contend with than he would have liked at this point of the season, but we cannot see past a routine win for the title hopefuls on the opening day.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.