Where We Are
An awful loss in Udine doesn't obscure Fiorentina's fantastic form in the Europa League, where la Viola have a perfect 4 wins out of 4. One more point from either of the next two games will ensure winning the group, and a subsequent better seeding in the draw for the Round of 32.
Naturally Vincenzo Montella will hope that his team can manage at least a point against a still-struggling Paços de Ferreira side, but he does plan on resting most of Fiorentina's key players. Giuseppe Rossi, Borja Valero, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Joqauin, and Manuel Pasqual were all spared the burden of traveling to Portugal in midweek, while Juan Cuadrado and Norberto Neto are also unlikely to participate. Several Fiorentina youth team players have traveled with the big boys, although the only one with a real chance of starting is 18 year old midfield gem Leonardo Capezzi. Capezzi's former Primavera compatriot Ryder Matos is poised to lead the line against the same team he victimized with his debut goal (with his first touch, no less). The tactical setup will likely be a formation increasingly favored by Montella, the "Christmas tree" 4-3-2-1. Josep Ilicic will have an opportunity to change fan sentiment with a full start next to Matias Fernandez as the attacking midfielders behind Matos. A midfield trident of Marko Bakic, Alberto Aquilani, and Massimo Ambrosini is forecasted, but it's unclear whether or not Montella will favor Tomovic or Savic to replace Gonzalo in the heart of the defense. Another curiosity going into the fixture: who will the captain be tonight, with so many of the senior Montella players absent from the starting lineup?
Where They Are
Paços de Ferreira have only barely improved from their disastrous start to the season, and continue to languish joint-bottom of the Portugese top flight. All the same, this weekend saw them earn a crucial 1-0 win against fellow stragglers Belenenses, a result which may be an indication of the coaching change having an effect. Henrique Calisto - who has already managed Paços on three separate occasions in last 20 years - has returned to replace Costinha, who was dismissed after a 1-3 home defeat to mid-table Vitória de Guimarães.
Calisto has had an immediate impact on his return, tightening up a defense that has only conceded twice in its last four games. Looking ahead to tonight's game, it remains to be seen whether the players or the home fans will be "fired up" for a meaningless European match when they are embroiled in a relegation battle, but Calisto appears ready to field a nearly full-strength lineup.
On paper this fixture might very well be a dire 0-0 affair (and may very well be just that), but with players looking to impress Montella and Matos' energy upfront, it might turn out to be a deliciously entertaining game. The groove of this Fiorentina side never deliberately takes the day off, and a victory away from home with a half-strength side would be the perfect way to seal a splendid beginning to our Europa League campaign. Forza viola, and Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow American fans!
Paços de Ferreira (4-3-3) Filipe; Tony, Tiago Valente, Ricardo, Helder Lopes; Andre' Leao, Sergio Oliveira, Anunciaçao; Ruben Ribeiro, Manuel Jose', Bebe'
FIORENTINA (4-3-2-1) Munua; Roncaglia, Tomovic, Compper, Alonso; Bakic, Aquilani, Ambrosini; Ilicic, Fernandez; Matos