The Europa League has given Fiorentina fans very mixed emotions over the past few years. Wins away to Roma and even a run to the Semi Final in 2015. But, for every good memory there has been some you never want to remember. Nothing proves this more than this year's campaign in Europe.
When the draw was made for Europa League it looked like a forgone conclusion that Fiorentina could qualify, and with relative ease. The Viola were drawn against PAOK FC, Qarabag and Slovan Liberec. Fiorentina went on to do what they set out to do and win the group and only losing one game and without any major hiccups seal top spot.
First up was an away trip to northern Greece to face what would be the biggest test in PAOK. An inspirational game in that it ended in a dramatic 0-0. A poor start in a dour game of football it was not the ideal start to get the pulses racing and the fans dreaming of a successful European run. PAOK also inflicted Fiorentina's only defeat in the group stage. The Greek side did have a 2-0 advantage but goals from Bernardeschi and Babacar either side of halftime levelled things up. It looked to be another draw on the cards but the Greeks regained the lead deep into injury time with a goal from Rodrigues.
Arguably Fiorentina's easiest test was against the Czech side Slovan Liberec. Scoring six goals and only conceding one La Viola swept aside their opponents. Kalinic set the tone in the tie scoring three goals. However, one of the most incredible things happened. Sebastian Cristoforo managed to score a goal. The Uruguayan scored a great driven effort from outside the area to everyone's amazement. The two ties created a great platform for Fiorentina to succeed in the group and managed to provide a vital away win in what was the first in five attempts at the start of the year.
Fiorentina in their second game of the group faced Qarabag for the first time. In what was a poor goalscoring start the season, La Viola really let loose against what was a 10 men Qarabag team. Khouma Babacar and Mauro Zarate both scored braces as Fiorentina proved they were a class above their opponents. The second leg was one of those forgettable games, however, in the end, was an important victory away in Azerbaijan. The most memorable part of the game was the performance of Federico Chiesa, who had a mixed bag. The energetic winger scored his first goal for the club and also got sent off in the game. The victory virtually secured top spot for Fiorentina and hope they would get a good draw in the group stages.
Round of 32
Following a successful group stage, Fiorentina were drawn against Borussia Monchengladbach. The Germans who had been knocked out of their Champions League Group. It posed a great challenge and was one of the trickier ties that Fiorentina could have drawn. What was to take place was a mix of the incredible and the demoralising.
Despite domination at times from Gladbach, Fiorentina gained a first leg lead thanks to one of the goals of the season from Federico Bernardeschi. A sensational free-kick from 30 yards out left Yann Sommer helpless in goal. It wasn't a perfect performance, far from it, but an incredibly important away goal left Viola fans with optimism going into the second leg.
One of the most frustrating games in recent memory was the second leg at the Franchi. Fiorentina began the first half in amazing fashion, two goals from Kalinic and Valero gave Fiorentina a 3-0 lead on aggregate. It seemed as if it was the perfect start until the 44th minute where Lars Stindl cut the deficit to make it 3-1 going into the break. What was to take place after was utterly embarrassing. Stindl went on to seal an 11-minute hat-trick and then Christensen sealed the victory as he made it 4-3 on aggregate to the away side. It was an awful collapse and what was already becoming a disappointing season this looked like the chance to create a welcome relief and have an exciting cup run. The season was effectively over, a very slim chance of Europa League qualification through the league and no Coppa Italia cup run was an epitome of Fiorentina's season for all the wrong reasons.
Overall Grade - D
In what was a relatively easy group stage draw Fiorentina did their job with some minor hiccups on the way against PAOK to win the group. However, even with a tricky tie against Gladbach Fiorentina and Paulo Sousa especially displayed all the flaws they had. It was a tie fans want to simply forget and it will be the last time La Viola play in the competition for hopefully only one season.