Thursday, October 1st
7 PM CEST, 6 PM local, 1 PM EDT, 10 AM PDT
In their second Europa League game, Fiorentina will try to bring their high-flying league form to Lisbon for a clash with Belenenses. While these teams have never before played (indeed, Belenenses has never played any Italian teams), they're oddly familiar with each other, as O Belém's manager, Ricardo Sá Pinto, was in charge of Sporting CP while Matías Fernández was there, and has Mati's former teammates Tonel and Betinho. A face more familiar to the casual fan will that of former Siena, Parma, and Cesena center-back Gonçalo Brandão, who is the club captain.
Founded in 1919, Belenenses are based in the Restelo neighborhood of the parish of Belem in Lisbon. A true league power at the inception of the Portuguese top division, they won three titles 1927, 1929, and 1933. They've won the Primeria Liga once, in 1945. They've also got six Taça de Portugal trophies (most recently in 1989), and a sort of cool history: first visitors to the Bernabeu, first to play in a two-legged UEFA Cup tie.
Belenenses finished last year's league in 6th place and beat Sweden's IFK Goteborg and Austria's Rheindorf Altach in qualifying. They played Lech Poznań to a scoreless draw in Poland in their first Europa game this season, so they've yet to lose in Europe. In their five games in the competition, they've allowed just three goals, although they've only scored five. Their domestic form is less impressive, as they sit just 13th in the table (W1 D4 L1), having scored 9 goals and conceded 13.
Sá Pinto is a rather defensive manager, preferring to keep a clean sheet, so that tendency should be on full display against a potent Fiorentina attack. He favors a system that's about halfway between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1, with the playmaker frequently coming deep to join a sturdy defensive midfield. Expect him to focus more upon keeping a good defensive shape and remaining compact and deep, trying to get goals on the break or through set pieces.
The key man is probably veteran attacker Carlos Martins, who'll shoulder most of the creative work. A tricky, old-fashioned creative midfielder, he's also the leading scorer. Center-back Palmeira (knee) and winger Miguel Rosa (thigh) are out injured. Also, Belenenses has a winger named Fábio Sturgeon, which is marvelous.
Perhaps you've heard that Fiorentina are leading Serie A after whomping Inter at the Meazza. Unfortunately, following a shocking display against Basel, they also sit last in Group I. With the squad in excellent form, Sousa will need a win both to continue la Viola's momentum and to keep up in the group. A first place group finish will be important to avoid a probable draw against any of the heavyweights once the knockout stages begin.
Paulo Sousa will have to shuffle things, though, due to a small crisis across the backline. Gonzalo Rodriguez will miss this one after his moment of madness in the first fixture. Facundo Roncaglia (thigh) is in the squad, although whether he can play the full ninety is unknown. There's also a late breaking report that Gilberto will miss the next four weeks, and Manuel Pasqual, is still hurt as well. Marko Bakic (back) also remains on the shelf. Expect to see Federico Bernardeschi putting in a shift on the wing again at some point. The 3-4-2-1 is the most likely formation, albeit with some heavy rotation to keep some tired legs fresh.
Belenenses (4-2-3-1): Hugo Ventura; André Geraldes, Tonel, Gonçalo Brandão, Filipe Ferreira; Rúben Pinto, André Sousa; Fábio Sturgeon, Carlos Martins, Kuca; Luís Leal
Fiorentina (3-4-2-1): Sepe; Tomovic, Astori, Roncaglia; Blaszczykowski, Suarez, Vecino, Alonso; Fernandez, Ilicic; Babacar
Belenenses will bunker down and occasionally threaten on the break, but this seems like one that will involve lots of passes between the Fiorentina centerbacks and few chances. I'm calling a late goal from Giuseppe Rossi for this one to finish 0-1 for the good guys.
How to watch
TV: The match is available on BT Sport Extra in the UK and Sky Sport Italia on the peninsula. For other viewing options where you are click here.
Online: Fox Soccer 2Go and ESPN3 both have this one. You can also check here for full listings. Don't post illegal streams in the comments, because we'll have to delete them and ban you if you keep doing it. This does include post match highlights. 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.