The Europa League returns this Thursday in Florence, as Fiorentina hopes to rebound against Polish champions turned cellar dwellers Lech Poznan. More than anything else this represents an opportunity to test out players who have been short on playing time recently.
Thursday, November 22rd
7:00 PM local/1:00 PM EST/10:00 PM PST
Expect this match to be an opportunity to rest some first team starters. Borja Valero, Milan Badelj, and Nikola Kalinic are all good bets for players to sit out tomorow. Marcos Alonso is already confirmed out after suffering an injury against Napoli, although there is optimism he will return for the weekend match against Roma. Manuel Pasqual and Ante Rebic are back to training normally and should be available, along with Gonzalo Rodriguez, who returned after the birth of his son Ian Luca.
Paulo Sousa hinted today that Joan Verdu could be used as a holding midfielder, and confirmed the availability of both Pasqual and Khouma Babacar. With regards to Giuseppe Rossi, he stressed patience as the player continues to return to fitness; which means we probably shouldn't be expecting 90 minutes of Rossi.
It is likely Fiorentina will continue to use the tactics that have worked over the past month, albeit with a more experimental choice in players. It wouldn't surprise me to see some Jakub Blaszczykowski due to the Polish factor. Considering Lech Poznan is in awful form right now, this match is as good an opportunity as any to experiment with the line up.
Polish club Lech Poznan is the most popular club in the Greater Poland region (the West-Central part of Poland), based in the city of Poznań. They won their 7th Ekstraklasa title last season, but appear to have imploded since then and are currently in last place. In 12 Ekstraklasa games so far, they have scored 10 goals (league worst) and conceded 21 (league second worst). In the Europa League they are currently 3rd in the group by virtue of goal difference, having drawn with Belenenses in Poland and lost to FC Basel 2-0 in Switzerland. Lech have yet to score in the Europa.
Lech is coached by former Polish international striker Jan Urban, who replaced Maciej Skorza after a torrid start to the season. Urban started his coaching career with Osasuna's youth teams, having settled in Pamplona, Spain after retirement. He has coached for the last decade in his native Poland, winning two Ekstraklasa titles with Legia Warsaw. After a disappointing season coaching Osasuna's first team in the Segunda Liga last year, he returned to Poland in an attempt to turn around Lech's season and has so far been unsuccessful.
Truth be told, I know virtually nothing about Lech's squad. Their captain is a midfielder named Lukasz Tralka who has had 6 caps for the Polish national team, and they have a Scottish left back named Barry Douglas who previously played for Dundee United. Their top scorer in last year's championship winning season was Finnish attacking midfielder Kasper Hämäläinen, who scored 13 goals in 36 games, while their assist leader was Polish midfielder Szymon Pawlowski, followed by Hungarian winger Gergo Lovrencsics. Both Hämäläinen and Pawlowski appear to have fallen out of favor under Urban.
Lech has never faced Fiorentina in a UEFA competition before, and have yet to win in four matches against Italian sides, although they have managed 3 draws.
Fiorentina (4-3-3): Sepe; Tomovic, Roncaglia, Gonzalo, Pasqual; Suarez, Verdu, Fernandez; Blaszczykowski, Babacar, Bernardeschi
Lech Poznan (4-2-3-1): Gostomski; Ceesay, Arajuuri, Kaminski, Kadar; Dudka, Tralka; Lovrencsics, Hamalainen, Formella; Thomalla
Fiorentina to win this one.
How to watch
TV: This one will actually be on TV in the United States, via Fox Soccer Plus! Canadian fans can watch on TSN5. Both Fox and ESPN also offer legal streaming services (see below). For other viewing options where you are click here.
Online: Take a look here for the full list of streaming options, including ESPN 3 and Fox Soccer 2Go for the U.S. and BT Sport Live Streaming in the U.K.. Any links to illegal streams will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be banned. As always, you can also follow along with us live on Twitter. If you haven't already, join the community on Viola Nation, and join in the discussion below.