Just as they did last year, Fiorentina and Tottenham have been paired in the Europa League Round of 32, with fans of La Viola hoping for a repeat of the 3-1 triumph they enjoyed twelve months ago. Of course, much has changed since then, with each side enjoying good results in their respective domestic table this term and both have been tipped for success in 2015/16.
For Spurs - currently second in the Premier League - that is perhaps a much more realistic proposition, but both Coaches admitted the tie had a Champions League atmosphere given the improvements they have made since their previous meeting.
Each side will be looking to advance in hope of lifting the trophy at St. Jakob-Park in May, a stadium Paulo Sousa knows all too well having previously managed resident club FC Basel. The Portuguese boss also has experience of English football of course, having spent time in charge of QPR, Swansea and Leicester City.
Marcos Alonso (Bolton and Sunderland), Nikola Kalinić (Blackburn), Borja Valero (West Brom) and Mauro Zárate (Birmingham QPR and West Ham) also spent time in the UK, while former AS Roma midfielder Erik Lamela is the only Spurs player to have plied his trade in Serie A.
That familiarity - and their previous clash - may ultimately count for very little however, with Sousa quick to point out the transformation of their opponents this term. "It's a different Tottenham from last year," he told reporters at the traditional pre-match press conference on Wednesday. "Players have come into their squad who are giving more and they've managed to rotate throughout the season while maintaining very high levels, and that's important.
The Coach also hinted that the game may see him rotate the side somewhat, and one player who may be given a place in the starting XI is Mauro Zarate. The Argentinean was handed a three-match ban earlier this week for his red card against Inter, meaning he is almost certain to be called upon in both legs of this encounter.
Sousa also spoke of needing to manage the 180 minutes, a point which many expect will mean a return to the three-man defence with Federico Bernardeschi dropping back into the wing-back role he had previously occupied.
As discussed in this previous post, that nullifies much of his attacking prowess, but Khouma Babacar - fresh from his match-winning goal against Inter - will hope to make up for that as he leads the frontline.
While the Viola will perhaps understandably ring the changes, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino insists his team will be as strong as possible when they take to the field at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday evening.
"My priority is always the next game, not too much about the future, that is how we live and how the squad feels," he said. "For me the most important game is tomorrow and the Premier League can wait. We are Tottenham, we must try to win every competition and every game."
Yet the English side will be missing their captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, ruled out for the foreseeable future after sustaining a shoulder injury in the win against Manchester City last weekend.
Pochettino was unsure if the Frenchman would be available for the return leg and is expected to field Michael Vorm in his place, while Jan Vertonghen and Clinton Njie are also sidelined with knee injuries.
Fiorentina (3-4-2-1): Tatarusanu; Tomovic, G. Rodriguez, Astori; Bernardeschi, Borja Valero, Vecino, Pasqual; Ilicic, Zarate; Babacar
Tottenham:(4-2-3-1): Vorm; Walker, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Rose; Dier, Dembele; Son, Eriksen, Alli; Kane. Allenatore: Pochettino
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