Following a very routine and not even slightly terrifying victory in their Serie A opener, Fiorentina will play their first European match since 2017. Their opponent is Dutch powerhouse Twente, with a spot in the Conference League group stages on the line. These two have never met before, so there’s no history between them, but the Tukkers did knock Juventus out of the UEFA Cup back in 1976, so they’re definitely friends.
The referee for this one is 45-year-old Daniel Stefanski of Bydgoszcz, Poland. In 6 appearances across all competitions this year, he’s handed out 35 yellow cards and 2 penalties. That looks like he’s not afraid to get involved in the proceedings. He’s never handled a match with either of these teams before.
The match will be played on Thursday, 18 August 2022, at 7:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a pretty wretched evening: it’s going to be fairly warm, which isn’t great, but the bigger problem is that the rain will be sheeting down for the third or fourth straight day. Expect a very slick playing surface, a bunch of bedraggled dudes with their hair gel running down the backs of their necks, and the chance of a lightning stoppage. It’s probably going to be miserable.
While the win over Cremonese looks fine in hindsight, it does point at certain issues within this team, particularly on the back end; hopefully the return to something approaching the real first-team defense will help a bit. Still, there’s some anxiety around the team following a freak result and an underwhelming preseason despite some big summer signings, so a good performance will be critical to build up some momentum, especially with the Derby dell’Arno looming on Sunday.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano will likely swap out at least half of his side. Pietro Terracciano, Igor, Alfred Duncan, Nicolás González, and Arthur Cabral are all pretty certain to start, while Jonathan Ikoné, Rolando Mandragora, Dodô, Riccardo Saponara, and Lorenzo Venuti are all possibilities as well. If nothing else, it’s a good indication of the depth, particularly in the attack, and should give Twente something very different to think about.
While the Tukkers are usually exuberant in throwing numbers forward, they may adopt a more reserved approach here, wary of letting Nico and company break at pace. Still, there should be a lot of space to attack in what should be a very open game. Twente do like to get their fullbacks forward, so expect one of Fiorentina’s wingers to drop in while the other stays high to provide an outlet. Other than that, the Viola will probably focus on keeping the ball and tempting their visitors out of their defensive shell, hoping to get the wingers into 1-v-1 situations. You know, typical Italiano stuff.
Twente are undefeated so far this season, having knocked Čukarički out of the Conference League already, won their opener at NEC Nijmegen, and then undressed Fortuna Sittard at home by a score of 3-0 on Sunday. They’re rolling right along and will be brimming with confidence following a strong start to a season in which they’ll hope to beat last year’s fourth-place finish.
Manager Ron Jans may not have DM and captain Wout Brama but should have the rest of his squad available. He’ll likely roll with something similar to the XI that put Fortuna Sittard to the sword on Sunday; the only real questions are in defense, where Julio Pleguezuelo may have the edge on Mees Hilgers, and on the wing, where Christos Tzolis may elbow his way in. It’ll be the usual 4-3-3 with a midfield triangle perfectly tilted in opposition to Fiorentina’s, so the individual battles are pretty clear.
Twente boast pace in the wide areas and aren’t afraid to go long; since Fiorentina will likely see more of the ball, the Viola defense will likely be tested in that way first and foremost. Failing that, the Tukkers have the quality to build from the back and will look to get midfield runners into the box, hoping to either take advantage of cutbacks and low crosses or play intricate combinations to set someone through. For more about them, check out our handy guide.
How to watch
TV: Probably not outside of Italy, but check the full international televisions listings.
Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The betting houses generally favor Fiorentina here by a fair amount, so it’s fair to call them the favorites. They probably have, on balance, more talent on the roster, and the rust that comes from playing just one competitive match so far should be offset by the friendly confines of the Franchi.
I’m expecting a wide open, entertaining match with a lot of back-and-forth between two teams that want to break quickly and control the action. While I think that Twente has enough quality going forward to cause problems, I expect they’ll leave themselves vulnerable at the back at times. That’s why I’m calling it a 3-1 win for the good guys, with Nico, Cabral, and Milenković on the scoresheet, with van Wolfswinkel getting one for the visitors. And yes, that is very much an attempt to manifest that into the universe.