Well, it’s time for Fiorentina to jump the next hurdle on their way to yet another Europa League showdown with Tottenham Hotspur, which means it’s time for a trip to Mönchengladbach in Westphalia to take on Borussia Monchengladbach. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. The referee for this one is Jesús Gil Manzano of Spain, who’s generally considered one of the better officials in la Liga.
The match will be played on Thursday, 16 February 2017, at 7 PM CET/1 PM EST, at the Borussia-Park in Monchengladbach, Germany.
It’s been a rather disappointing campaign for die Fohlen, as they sit just 11th in the Bundesliga after a second consecutive 4th-placed finish in 2016. Their Champions League showing was as expected, as they finished 3rd in their group behind Barcelona and Manchester City and thus dropped into the knockout rounds of the Europa League.
A German Team is W3 D1 L1 in their last 5 league matches, including a full 9 points from their last 3, and now that their squad is finally getting healthy after a half-season of injury crises, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them push on and qualify for the Europa League again. However, manager Dieter Hecking (2-time runner up in Most German-Sounding Name) has spoken of his desire to push on in this year’s edition, so his players won’t take it easy, even with 2nd-place Leipzig visiting on Sunday.
After starting the season with a 3-5-2 shape, he’s switched to a 4-4-2 in recent weeks, albeit a slightly lopsided one that frequently features centerback Tony Jantschke out on the right, although Julian Korb, who’s a more traditional fullback, will probably get the nod here. Midfielders Cristoph Kramer and Mahmoud Dahoud are both excellent on the ball and look to hit quick passes into the attackers, with the former being the more defensive-minded. The attack is what’s scary, though: Hecking has created a very fluid front four that regularly switches places, using pace and technique to work the channels and create chances; Raffael, Lars Stindl, and Thorgan Hazard are the dangermen. Honestly, they’re a fast, fun, young, and entertaining group.
This remains a truly incomprehensible group of players who carry an identical record over their last 5 (W3 D1 L1) as their opponents, although they’ve been considerably less steady in their overall results. Manager Paulo Sousa may look forward to a Sunday matchup against Vincenzo Montella and AC Milan, which could lead to some wayward focus and squad rotation, but you get the feeling that the Viola are going to put in a shift in the Europa League this season.
Sousa will have to do without Federico Chiesa, who’s on a red card suspension for being a dumb kid from back in that Qarabag match, so Cristian Tello should come into the side. Nikola Kalinic is supposedly healthy as well and should replace Khouma Babacar up top. Sebastian Cristoforo and Carlos Salcedo are both good bets to continue their usual Europa appearances, and Riccardo Saponara could feature off the bench.
Expect the usual 3-4-2-1 setup. The Viola should control the center of the park and will probably try to pass their way through M’gladbach’s midfield pair, but will concede a lot of time and space down the wings, which is a concern. Facing a very strong centerback pairing, crosses into the box probably won’t reap great rewards, so this could be more of a match to hope for a few thundering shots from distance.
How to watch
TV: Doesn’t look like anybody’s carrying this one, which is a shame, since it’s two of the more entertaining teams from two of the biggest leagues in Europe. Whatever.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Guh. This is the kind of team that generally gives Fiorentina trouble: fast and technical on the wings, clever in the channels, solid at the back. But, since we’re always optimistic about everything around here, let’s say 1-2 to the good guys, with a Hazard strike canceled out by Kalinic tap-in and an Ilicic free kick.