Czech side Slovan Liberec travels to Florence for the fourth match in Group J of the Europa League. Fiorentina won the first leg 1-3 in Liberec last month, but the match was much tighter than the scoreline suggests. With 7 points from 3 matches, a win here would assure the Viola of advancement to the knockout rounds, as Qarabag and PAOK both sit on 4 points and play each other. The referee this time is Macedonian Aleksandar Stavrev.
The match will occur on Thursday, 3 November 2016, at 9:05 PM CST/4:05 PM ET at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The Viola are certainly in a better place than they were last time these two met. Undefeated since the Torino match, Paulo Sousa has to be feeling a bit better about things. With the exception of an mid-diluvian draw against Crotone, Fiorentina are grinding out results, taking the heat off of him, and have clawed their way to 8th in the league table with a game in hand (a win against Genoa in that replay would see them jump into 6th).
Sousa is likely to stick with the flat-back-four 4-2-3-1 that’s sparked the turnaround, although he may well want to rotate his squad with Sampdoria coming to town just 3 days after this one. A midfield pairing of Carlos Sanchez and one of Matias Vecino or Sebastian Cristoforo seems likely. Khouma Babacar will likely get the nod at striker, and Mauro Zarate may end up seeing some minutes as well. Youngsters Federico Chiesa, Ianis Hagi, and Kevin Diks could all show up at some point as well.
The Modrobili have climbed into 10th since last we saw them, but are coming off of a 2-1 loss at Bohemians. Manager Jindrik Trpisovsky must be feeling a bit of pressure as his defense continues to leak in goals, scuttling his club’s chance of another finish in the European places.
He’ll probably set out about how he did against the Viola last time, although his tinkering—midfielder Jan Sykora at leftback—probably won’t be replicated. Centerback Martin Latka scored a 1st minute own goal (!) in their last match, so I’m expecting him to be dropped again, while midfielder Radim Breite is suspended. Centerback and club captain Lukas Pokorny (knee) remains out.
Expect Slovan to be a bit more reserved away from home. They should defend in two banks of four before breaking quickly down the wings. As usual, their greatest threat will come from set-pieces; Trpisovsky will have studied the film from Cagliari carefully. There is a small chance, though, that he’ll just throw caution to the winds and go all-attack, given his side’s obvious defensive frailties.
[Update]: Sounds like Vecino's just been ruled out with muscle fatigue, so Cristoforo should get the nod.
How to watch
TV: Check BeIn and, if you’re in Central or South America, ESPN2. Otherwise, looks like no dice.
Online: Here be your streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
A comfortable 2-0 for the good guys seems about right, with goals from Babacar and Zarate.
Stay tuned for match day coverage and analysis, and as always, Forza Viola!