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Fiorentina vs. PAOK preview

A win for Fiorentina would mean a qualification to the next round.

Marco Luzzani

Unlike Serie A, Europa League campaign is going excellent. A win tonight would mean qualifying for next round, and possibly even securing first place. Mostly, though, tonight's game is important to boost morale after yet another disappointment in Serie A last Sunday. PAOK, on the other hand, could do with a point in their battle for second place in the group.

The viola aren't coming into the game in the best of moods. Team is clearly underperforming in Serie A, which was a cue for rumors about Vincenzo Montella's future at the club. A serious injury, that will keep Federico Bernardeschi out for at least five months does not help. According to Italian media, there will hardly be more than 15.000 spectators, which is in itself a sort of a warning for the team.

There is something to look forward to, though. Mario Gomez should make his come back in the starting line up tonight. After being sidelined for more than a month due to thigh injury. Hopefully, the injuries are behind SuperMario and he will help the team overcome a crisis it's in.

More changes are expected. Alberto Aquilani will sit this one out, to recover for smaller injury suffered during the training on Tuesday. And it might be none other than almost forgotten Andrea Lazzarri to replace him. Perhaps with Bernardeschi's injury we might see El Hamdaoui and Iakovenko again at some point? Probably not, but Marko Marin should finally make his debut, although he will probably not start the game.

In a way, this is the hardest game of the season for Fiorentina. A victory doesn't mean that much. Yes, it guarantees qualification for the next round, but with all due respect to our group rivals, Fiorentina is going to qualify even if PAOK manages to win tonight. But another poor performance and result - morale in the squad will go from bad to worse.

But this is a team that has quality, not just to beat the Greeks, but to challenge for much higher goals than results so far this season suggest. That's why we believe this is going to be a turning point. Forza Viola!

Oh, and this will be an opportunity to say hello to our former player, from our Serie B days in 2004 -  Zisis Vryzas, now technical director of PAOK. You are forgiven if you don't remember him, though.