Well we've waited for this for a long time, whiling the timing away with really dumb things and really smart things. Now to get ready for the game itself. Fiorentina face Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow evening in London, and the stage is set. The Viola haven't played a European match in England since famously defeating Liverpool 1-2 in the Champions League behind a Stevan Jovetic brace. Other memories from the British Isles include a Europa League penalty shootout, one back in Liverpool against Everton (whee), and a 0-0 further north against Rangers (we won't discuss those penalties back in Florence, hmm?). And our last trip to London for a competitive match? Well that was 1999, and this happened:
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We have no one of the calibre of BatiGol in this side, but we might not need one to get a result from this admittedly difficult first leg. Fiorentina are riding a wave of confidence of the sort they had towards the end of the first season under Vincenzo Montella, which of course makes me, like any veteran Viola fan, quite uneasy. All the same, we do match up fairly well against Mauricio Pocchetino's side. Montella is forecasted to return to the 3-5-2, favoring the defensive solidity of 3 central defenders in the away fixture over a potentially free-wheeling attack. Joaquin, Borja Valero, David Pizarro, and Mario Gomez - all rested this weekend - will return to the starting lineup, while Ciprian Tatarusanu looks like he will pass fit for the game, avoiding the potentially uncomfortable situation of Norberto Neto starting between the sticks. Mohammed Salah is also rumored to start as the second striker in the 3-5-2 after his flying full debut for Fiorentina. Of course, I wouldn't put it past Montella to switch to a 4-3-3 at the last minute.
Pocchetino also has plenty of options at his disposal since all Spurs are apparently fit, but the Tottenham manager will have to contend with an even more congested schedule than Fiorentina in the coming month. While to me it would make sense for Spurs to name a first choice eleven for this home fixture and try to gain a hefty advantage, and then rotate through the coming games, Pocchetino had a reputation for rotating in cup competitions at Southampton, and has done the same so far this season. We will see what - if any - big changes he makes. Regardless, the system will almost definitely be the bog-standard 4-2-3-1, with Harry Kane the lone striker.
It should be quite a special occasion at White Hart Lane, where the Fiorentina away fans are preparing to make their voices heard. Let's hope for a performance that the English fans will remember, like in the good old days!
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Rose; Bentaleb, Mason; Lamela, Dembele, Eriksen; Kane
FIORENTINA (3-5-2): TATARUSANU; SAVIC, GONZALO, BASANTA; JOAQUIN, MATI, PIZARRO, BORJA, PASQUAL; GOMEZ, SALAH