Where We Are
Despite some recent mediocre outings, Fiorentina can still be quite proud of their European campaign so far, and feel good about their chances of finishing top of Group E after their final match against second place Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Vincenzo Montella and company can not only seal a higher seeding for the knockout rounds with a win or a draw, but would also close an impressive group stage undefeated.
Several changes are expected to the side that lost on Sunday in Rome, especially in attack. Joaquin, Josip Ilicic, and our Europa League bomber Ryder Matos are the expected attacking trident, with Giuseppe Rossi and Juan Cuadrado waiting in the wings as high-level impact subs. Matias Fernandez is likely to start in midfield, alongside Borja Valero and one of Massimo Ambrosini and David Pizarro. The defensive line should feature a couple of like-for-like changes, with Facundo Roncaglia and Marvin Compper set to slot in. Montella refused to say whether or not second keeper Munua would get another Europa League start.
Where They Are
Like Fiorentina, Dnipro have enjoyed their Europa League campaign to date, with their only stumble so far coming in a fiercely-contested, wet, and cold match against la Viola at home. But the visit to Florence doesn't arrive at a good time for coach Juande Ramos' side. The Ukrainians should have the advantage of recently beginning their long winter break (the Ukrainian League doesn't play again until the end of February... for obvious reasons), and have been able to keep pace with the pack chasing Shaktar Donetsk at the top of their league. But at the same time, Dnipro has only won 1 of their last 5 league matches, and expect to play Fiorentina with 7 absences, including important players like Strinic and Matheus. It will be interesting to see how much fluidity Dnipro can muster with these factors working against them at the Artemio Franchi.
After the wintery mix soaked first leg, we can take cheer in the mild conditions forecast in Florence tomorrow.
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Montella emphasized that his side are not built to "play for a draw" in his prematch interview, so we can expect Fiorentina to start eager to win and impress at home as always, despite the player rotations. Dnipro will look to absorb the pressure and break quickly, particularly through Yevhen Seleznyov and quite-good-footballer-and-name-brother Yevhen Konoplyanka (hopefully Facundo remembers to turn on his brain tomorrow). A point at home is enough for Fiorentina to top the group and avoid potential clashes with Tottenham, Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Red Bull Salzburg, and Valencia, to say nothing of Benfica, Basel, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Here's hoping we can finish the job in front of the home fans and get excited about the knockout rounds! Forza viola!