Fiorentina somehow scraped a clean sheet while visiting BMG and even got the win behind an utterly dazzling free kick from Federico Bernardeschi, but die Fohlen will surely want revenge for a match that they (and pretty much anyone who watched) will feel they should have won. With the German team’s support expected to travel well, to the tune of about 10,000, we should have the sort of raucous atmosphere that a match of this importance deserves. Portuguese referee Artur Soares Dias—who’s never officiated a match for either of these two previously—could have his hands full.
The match will be played on Thursday, 23 February 2017, at 9:05 PM CET/3:05 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
This Viola season of peaks and valleys continue, as the karma for a rather undeserved win in Germany came around and whacked them in the back of the head in the form of a 1-2 reversal at AC Milan in which the visitors certainly looked far the better side for much of the match. The result drops their league form to an unremarkable W2 D1 L2 in their last 5, fueling rumors about a new manager for next season.
Paulo Sousa remains the boss for now, though, and he showed with his team selection last week that he’s serious about the Europa League. That means we’ll probably see something approximating his first XI; whether he opts to drop Borja Valero deeper into the midfield or keep using him higher up the pitch is one of the big questions. The other is the identity of the starter on the right wing, where Federico Chiesa and Cristian Tello have both been in good form of late.
It’ll almost certainly be the 3-4-2-1 again. After their struggles to move the ball with any fluidity last time out against die Fohlen, expect the Gigliati to try and slow the game down with lots of lateral passing in attempt to kill the tempo and prevent their opponents from breaking into space, as they did so well last Thursday. In short, it’ll probably be another Sousa masterclass: lots of passes across the defense, lethargic buildup, and some desperate prayers that Berna or someone else will produce some magic to win it.
Much like their Italian doppelgangers, BMG suffered a 1-2 loss this weekend as well, although theirs was at the hands of 2nd-placed RB Leipzig. With 13 matches left, they’re 8 points back from 6th place and the Bundesliga’s final Europa spot. In their last 5 league matches, they’re W3 D1 L1; their form may be good enough to really challenge for a final push into the European spots, and their current campaign may be enough of a distraction that it could behoove them to ignore it.
Manger Dieter Hecking, however, has shown no evidence of doing anything like that. With a squad that’s mostly healthy now—although the absences of winger Ibrahima Traore (ankle) and striker Raffael (thigh) are worrisome—he’ll probably send out his best XI and hope they can reverse the deficit. He should welcome Patrick Herrmann back into the side on the right wing, and Julian Korb may get the nod over Tony Jantschke at rightback. Otherwise, we know more or less what to expect.
As usual, M’gladbach will line up in a 4-4-2 with an extremely fluid front 4. Striker Lars Stindl in particular will be desperate to atone for his profligacy in front of goal against the Viola last week; his clever movement and excellent control mark him as the dangerman along with fellow striker Thorgan Hazard, who runs the channels brilliantly and likes to take a man on whenever possible. Farther back, Cristoph Kramer and Mahmoud Dahoud will want to dominate the tempo as they did last week, but it may be a tougher order away from home.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
It doesn’t seem like there’s any way that Fiorentina can keep a clean sheet this time around, so let’s call it a 1-1 nailbiter, with Stindl finally turning one home before Gonzalo scores an emotional late winner in what winds up being a rather start-stop affair with lots of fouling from the visitors to break up the home team’s sterile but effective possession.