After an absolute snoozefest of a scoreless draw in their Europa opener at PAOK, the Viola need all 3 points here to take control of the group. With all due respect to Qarabag, though, Paulo Sousa is likely to give much of the first team a rest, so expect to see a bunch of reserves and youngsters in this one. With all those new players, we may see a new formation as well. However, the tactics should remain familiar: the Viola will look to keep the ball in the middle before spreading it and hoping the wingers can create something.
Luca Lezzerini or Bartlomiej Dragowski may well get a chance to prove themselves, with the former more likely to get the nod. Gonzalo Rodriguez is almost certain to be rested after a minor muscle strain against AC Milan, and Davide Astori may be held out as well to ensure he’s ready for Torino. Thus, we could see a partnership of Sebastien de Maio and Carlos Salcedo, with Maxi Olivera and Nenad Tomovic at the fullback spots.
Sousa will probably start one of Milan Badelj or Carlos Sanchez in midfield, with the other making a second half cameo. This could be a good opportunity for Sebastian Cristoforo, although Matias Vecino may get the nod as he tries to round back into form after losing a month to injury. Ianis Hagi has been training with the senior side recently and could feature from the beginning, as could Federico Chiesa. Cristian Tello may start, but will probably not finish the match. Khouma Babacar should start up top, but expect to see Mauro Zarate at some point as well.
First off, it’s pronounced kar-ah-bah, with a slight emphasis on the final syllable. Anyways, they’re an Azeri club from Agdam, but have moved their operations to the capital of Baku since the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1993 due to the ongoing tensions. After winning both the league and the cup last year, Qarabag currently sit second in the Azerbaijan Premier League with 13 points from 6 matches and a gaudy +12 in goal difference. They snatched a point in their 2-2 draw against Slovan in their previous Europa fixture with a 90th minute equalizer, although they were probably the better side throughout.
Manager Gurban Gurbanov plays a 4-3-3. The defense is rugged and will look to clear anything that comes near it rather than try to play out from the back. Spaniard Michel, who’s played for Birmingham and Getafe, is the main creator in the middle and will look to slip the forwards through, as well as motoring into the box to get onto crosses. Brazilian striker Reynaldo is the dangerman, with his 46 goals for the club since 2012 second on their all-time list. He’s a small, clever player who’s at his best on the break and will try to slip in behind the defense.
Qarabag’s style is generally rather basic: sit deep, work the ball wide to the wingers, and cross it in whenever possible. They’d rather wait back than try to keep the ball (although they’ve got more quality in the midfield than you might expect) and break quickly, with a midfielder frequently getting into the box as a target as well. They’re a serious threat from set pieces—both their goals against Liberec came from corners—with a number of large options capable of going up and getting the ball. These qualities will probably be exaggerated against Fiorentina.
Fiorentina (4-2-3-1): Lezzerini; Tomovic, de Maio, Salcedo, Olivera; Sanchez, Vecino; Tello, Chiesa, Hagi; Babacar
Qarabag (4-3-3): Sehic; Medvedev, Sadygov, Yunuszade, Agolli; Garayev, Michel, Richard; Muarem, Reynaldo, Quintana
How to watch
Date/time: Thursday 29 September 2016 at 6:00 PM local/1:00 PM EST
Venue: Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy
TV: If you’re in Italy, check Sky. If you’re elsewhere, maybe have a look at the BeIn listings, but this one’s going to be almost exclusively an internet experience.
Online: Here is your list of viewing options. As always, we’ll have a match thread posted for you to follow along with shortly before kickoff.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
3-0 to the hosts, with a Babacar brace and a first Viola goal from Hagi.