Fresh off an infuriating draw at Empoli in the Derby dell’Arno, Fiorentina travel the 1300 km/800 mi north to Enschede, where Twente awaits them. The Viola produced a dominant first half display in the home leg but still came away with just a 2-1 win, setting up what should be a tense 90 minutes between two sides that will be desperate to reach the group stage of the Conference League.
The referee for this one is 39-year-old Radu Petrescu of Romania. In 7 appearances this year, he’s handed out 34 yellow cards, 1 red card, and 2 penalties; a look at his statistics indicates that he usually takes a hands-off approach, so don’t be surprised if there’s some pretty physical play, especially as the hosts try to set the tone early. He has no shortage of experience in Europe, though, so he should be able to keep a handle on things.
The match will be played on Thursday, 25 August 2022, at 5:00 PM GMT/1:00 PM EST, at the Grolsche Veste in Enschede. The forecast calls for an alarmingly warm day (aren’t the Netherlands supposed to be chilly?) with some clouds, but it will likely feel very much like Tuscany for the 2500ish away supporters who are expected to show up.
Twente haven’t played since last week as the Eredivisie kindly rescheduled their league match to ensure they didn’t suffer fixture congestion; Serie A, you’ll be astonished to hear, offered no such grace to Fiorentina. They’ll have taken the extra week to rest and study the Viola, so they may come out the gates looking much the better side.
Manager Ron Jans won’t have CM and captain Wout Brama but should have the rest of his squad ready. He’ll likely send out the same XI he did last Thursday in the usual 4-3-3, although we might see Václav Černý replace Daan Rots on the wing, considering the impact the Czech international made in the first leg. Really, though, it’ll likely be business as usual for the Tukkers.
After opening the away leg by sitting far too deep, expect Jans to order a higher line of pressure, especially since the Viola have looked a bit fragile at the back. The attacking thrust will once again come from the wingers, who’ll try to win their 1-v-1 battles and either shoot themselves or find striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel; Michel Vlap’s late runs into the area will also be a threat. Don’t be surprised if the hosts try to turn this into an up-and-down track meet, constantly trying to lift the tempo and create chaos to prevent Fiorentina from slowing things down and getting a handle on proceedings.
For a team that’s yet to lose in 3 outings this season, there’s a lot of anxiety about Fiorentina right now. In fairness, some of it is justified, given some of the shakiness we’ve seen from them, but those first 45 minutes against Twente offer glimpses of what the Viola could be this season. If they can maintain that level, they should be fine.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have CM Gaetano Castrovilli or CM Szymon Żurkowski but will welcome back CB Igor. After the personnel experiments against Empoli, expect a lot more changes. Luka Jović, Sofyan Amrabat, Nicolás González, Riccardo Sottil, Cristiano Biraghi, and Pietro Terracciano are certain to return, while Lorenzo Venuti and Alfred Duncan might return to the fold as well.
Since Italiano rarely adjusts his game plan for specific opponents, we can expect the usual approach. Given how Sottil dominated Joshua Brenet last week, expect the team to push the ball wide as quickly as possible in order to give him and González opportunities to attack isolated defenders. It feels like whichever team’s wide forwards can beat their opposing numbers will probably have a big advantage, and the scales are likely tilted slightly towards the Viola.
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
The oddsmakers have this one pretty even, which feels about right. Fiorentina are probably a shade better in terms of overall talent, but Twente are superb at home (they’ve only lost 1 of their past 8 at the Grolsche Veste) and have had a full week off to prepare themselves, whereas Fiorentina had a mentally-draining local derby and then a long trip. It’s going to be close.
Considering that both of these teams like to get forward, it feels like there should be goals in this one. I’ll call it as a 2-2 draw, with Twente scoring first via a van Wolfswinkel strike from a cross as the hosts pile on the pressure before Jović pulls one back on the counter. As the Tukkers pile forward in the second half, Sottil should run rampant and take the lead, leading to a frantic finish that sees the Viola sit deep and absorb wave after wave of attack before countering at the other end, only to see the hosts grab a consolation deep into stoppage time. Universe, if you’re listening, please manifest this game script precisely.