And so here we are, do or die time in the Europa League. Thursday night's round of fixtures will end in sudden death for 16 of the 32 teams competing for a place in the next round of this year's Europa League. The remaining 16 teams will be left to contest a tournament that, given the trend set over the course of the last two seasons, forebodes being a big waste of time for everybody bar Sevilla. The team from Andalusia unceremoniously dumped the Viola out of this same competition at the semi final stage last year and are currently in the hunt for an unprecedented third successive title. With an incredible 40% success rate in this competition over the course of the last decade, you could forgive the trophy engravers were they to start etching Sevilla's name on the cup early.
Though it may be the case that Sevilla have one hand on what now seems like their very own personal trophy, all is still to play for, and who knows, maybe this season they will be charitable and decide to lease it out for a year in order to decorate somebody else's trophy cabinet. As it currently stands that somebody else could be Fiorentina, though in order for that eventuality to transpire, the Viola will have to topple Tottenham, in Tottenham. This should be an easy feat for the Italians, who are undefeated in their five most recent outings against English opposition, having won three and drawn two against teams hailing from the moneyed fairground known as the English Premier League. Adding more steel to the argument that this tie is Fiorentina's to lose is the fact that the team from Florence have lost only once in a whopping 16 Europa League away games. A penny if you can remember who that loss came against. Tottenham, on the other hand, may argue that to proceed in this tournament, they do not technically have to even win this match up. Considering the first leg ended 1-1, a 0-0 draw will effectively see the home side in this fixture go through on away goals.
Tottenham fans looking to bolster their own teams claims for potential superiority in the tie would no doubt point to the fact that their team have lost just once at home in their last 20 European matches, which is quite an extraordinary sequence for the Lillywhites, who have also scored in 19 successive European matches at White Hart Lane. Concentrating solely on this year's competition, Tottenham have won all three of their home games, scoring 9 goals along the way. Fiorentina, in way of contrast have scored 8 goals across their three European away games this season, winning two and drawing one. All of which leads one to deduce that this game is a hard one to call. Spurs' standout performer in European competition this term has been Erik Lamela. The young Argentine will need no introduction to fans of Serie A, nor will they need any convincing of the ex Roma player's undoubted ability. Lamela has scored 5 of the 13 goals Tottenham have racked up in this season's Europa League. The Viola can also lay claim to having a star performer in this year's competition with Federico Bernardeschi scoring 4 of Fiorentina's 11 goals in the tournament to date. Both starlets are fit and both are predicted to be in their respective teams' starting line-ups.
After winning seven games on the bounce, Tottenham's imperious form was halted in Florence. After the 1-1 draw at the Franchi, Tottenham followed up with a home loss to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup. Despite the home side's domination, it was Alan Pardew's men who left White Hart Lane the happier on the better side of a proper smash and grab one-nil victory. Aside from being knocked out of their domestic cup competition, the other bad news for Spurs was the injury picked up in the game by Harry Kane. The England forward will miss the game against Fiorentina due to a broken nose. Elsewhere, Mousa Dembele will also miss the game after picking up a groin injury in the same encounter against Crystal Palace at the weekend. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino should welcome back first choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and as intimated above, Erik Lamela has been given the go ahead after recently coming back from illness. Tom Carroll, who started the first leg is also ruled out through injury alongside Jan Vertonghen, who has also been sidelined due to an injured knee.
Fiorentina are currently in reasonably good form, having remained unbeaten for seven games running. Paulo Sousa has a full complement at his disposal, with no new injuries reported. Facundo Roncaglia remains suspended and Yohan Benalouane is still unavailable for selection due to injury. Speculation is rife as to whether Sousa will opt to start with Mauro Zarate up front. Other rumours circling include the potential for Matias Vecino to start ahead of Tino Costa, slotting in the midfield alongside Borja Valero. With nothing concrete to go on, Sousa's starting eleven will be very intriguing. How the Portuguese coach sets his team up in order to get the desired result will reveal an awful lot in regard to the football philosophy of Fiorentina's manager. And if for nothing else this will be interesting for the battle of wits that pits Paulo Sousa against his equally impressive opposite number Mauricio Pochettino.
Tottenham: (4-2-3-1) Lloris; Davies, Wimmer, Alderweireld, Trippier; Dier, Mason; Son, Alli, Lamela; Chadli
Fiorentina: (4-4-1-1) Tatarusanu; Alonso, Astori, Rodriguez, Tomovic; Bernardeschi, Vecino, Valero, Blaszczykowski; Ilicic; Zarate
How To Watch: BT Sports, ESPN, & Fox Soccer look to have this one covered. For full options you can check listings here.
And as always there will be a live match thread for discussion, or if twitter is your thing you can follow coverage of the game @Viola_Nation and true to form we will have updates of the most key events on our Facebook page.