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Fiorentina vs PAOK: Preview

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The Viola are assured of advancing, but a win here would all but assure them first place in Group J.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Slovan Liberec - UEFA Europa League
It’s all about finding your best angle.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Sitting pretty at the top of Group J with 10 points, Fiorentina have a 3 point lead on second-placed Qarabag and are assured of advancing to the knockout rounds, while PAOK sit on 4 points. Fiorentina will definitely want a win here, as the final match will be the long journey to Baku to face Qarabag, which could prove tricky. 3 points in this one would also pretty much sew up the group. PAOK, though, need a win to keep alive any hope of advancing, so the Greeks will put up a fight.

The referee for this one is the Stephan Klosser, who will bring his Swiss crew with him. He’s never handled a match for either of these clubs, who’ve been drawn into the same group for the second time in three years.

The match will be played on Thursday, 24 November 2016, at 6 PM CST/1 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Fiorentina

Fresh off a 0-4 dismantling of fellow Tuscan side Empoli, Fiorentina are showing signs of putting it all together. Their Europa League form is even better, as they’ve won 4 straight after a draw in the opener at PAOK. Paulo Sousa will probably set out his usual 4-2-3-1ish shape and hope to press high up the pitch, nick an early goal, and then drop back and play on the counter for the rest of the match.

Sousa may rest some key players ahead of a big match at Inter Milan on Monday. Carlos Sanchez may draw the start, and Matias Vecino should slot in next to him. Cristian Tello, who’s suspended for the next Serie A match, will probably play the full 90, and young Federico Chiesa could well get the nod on the left again. Nikola Kalinic will probably get the nod up top in hopes that he gets a goal to boost his confidence, but a Khouma Babacar appearance should be forthcoming too.

PAOK

The Black and Whites continue to struggle in the Greek Super League, with their 11 points from 8 matches good for just 6th in the table. They notched a 1-2 win at Larisa in their last league matchup. They’ve got the second best defense in the league, with just 5 goals conceded, but have only scored 7. Under manager Vladimir Ivic, they’re more than happy to grind out results with a solid defense and hard-working midfield and hope for a moment of magic from one of their attackers.

Ivic will have to do without first-choice centerback and Greek international Georgios Tzavellas, which will force a reshuffle of his backline. With a band of pacey and technical attackers in Djalma, Garry Rodrigues, and Diego Biseswar and a mobile, lanky option up top in Stefanos Athanasiadis, PAOK will probably play on the break, looking for space down the wings before cutting it in for their striker.

Possible lineups

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How to watch

TV: If you’re not in Italy, looks like you’re pretty well out of luck. Sorry.

Online: We’ve got a list of safe and reliable streams here.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

Given PAOK’s struggles to get in the goals, let’s call this a 2-0 to the hosts, with a Kalinic tap-in supplemented by a Sanchez header from a corner.