Match Preview: Fiorentina vs. Pandurii

Joaquin is a likely starter against Pandurii. Photo - Gabriele Maltinti

After euphoria against Juventus on Sunday, Fiorentina return to the scene of the comeback aiming to conclude a perfect start in the Europa League against Romanian side Pandurii Târgu Jiu.

WHERE WE ARE

FIORENTINA (4-3-1 in Serie A, T-5th; 2-0-0 in Europa League Group E, 1st)

Well, if you are like me you're still not entirely sure where exactly you are after the heroics against the "Old Something Inappropriate Lady" and are still watching videos like the following on repeat...

Post by ACF Fiorentina - Official.

... And then suddenly Thursday has arrived at the speed of light, and here we are with another Fiorentina match to enjoy. Thankfully the team has looked much more focused than the fans in its preparation, and both Montella and Neto emphasized the importance of this Europa League match in yesterday's press conference. At the same time, expect considerable turnover from Sunday, with the coming week featuring three Serie A matches, including showdowns against Milan and Napoli.

David Pizarro will be missing due to his red card against Dnipro, while Massimo Ambrosini suffered a muscle strain against Juventus and looks to be back against his old club Milan in a week and a half. This is a good opportunity then for 19 year old Montenegrin Marko Bakić to shine in the deeper midfield role he is learning. Vincenzo Montella is also projected to give some rest to Giuseppe Rossi, Juan Cuadrado, Manuel Pasqual, Stefan Savic, and Facundo Roncaglia because of imminent Serie A commitments. Borja Valero and Matias Fernandez are pegged to keep the Viola rhythm going in midfield, while an interesting mixture of youth and experience will feature in the forward trident of Iakovenko, Matos, and Joaquin. Group E top-scorer Gonzalo Rodriguez may even find some rest, although Montella may choose to field him in order to assure a goal-scoring threat.

WHERE THEY ARE

CS Pandurii  Târgu Jiu (6-2-3 in Romanian Liga I, 4th; 0-1-1 in Europa League Group E, 3rd)

Clubul Sportiv Pandurii Lignitul Târgu Jiu - to give them their full name - are enjoying the best moment of their existence so far. The Romanian club, located in the regional capital city of Târgu Jiu, have been in Liga I for less than ten years, and last year achieved their highest-ever finish as runners up. Head coach Cristian Dumitru Pustai has Pandurii off to another strong start, but remain five points behind league leaders Steaua Bucureşti, who also have two games in hand. The team boasts a mainly Romanian line-up, and has a very good away record. Watch out for amazingly-named Lithuanian striker Deivydas Matulevičius, who already boasts 6 goals to his name, and Brazilian midfielder Eric de Oliveira Pereira, who scored twice in their 6-1 thrashing of Botoşani.

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When drafted into Group E, I think most commentators (myself included) overrated Paços de Ferreira and underrated Pandurii, but I don't think Montella is doing the same in chopping and changing. The stadium will still be rocking after Juventus on Sunday, and the players given a chance to shine in this starting XI will be eager to make a positive impression as the season begins to wear on. Let's hope that Matos can score in Europe again, and if we are ever in doubt, just keep calm and pass to Borja Valero.

Projected Lineups

FIORENTINA (4-3-3) Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo, Compper, Alonso; Fernandez, Bakic, Valero; Joaquin, Matos, Iakovenko

Pandurii (4-2-3-1) Stanca; Ungurusan, Christou, Erico, Sipo; Buleica, Cristea; Pereira, Anton, Distefano; Matulevičius

Kick-off is 3:05 p.m. EST, and will not be televised, but will be available on Fox Soccer 2Go? I think?

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