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Fiorentina vs Genk: Preview

The Viola would take a big step towards the knockout rounds with a win, but de Smurfen won’t go without a fight.

ACF Fiorentina v Bologna FC - Serie A TIM Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Following a typically frustrating performance coming out of the international break, Fiorentina return to Tuscany for a Conference League date with Genk. The reverse fixture ended in a 2-2 draw with all the goals coming from corner kicks; you may recall that the good guys wasted a brace (and a nutmeg that should’ve been an assist) from Luca Ranieri, of all people.

KRC Genk v ACF Fiorentina: Group F - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 Photo by Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

The referee for this one is 32-year-old Joey Kooij of the Netherlands. In 19 appearances this year, he’s handed out 68 yellow cards, 5 red cards, and 6 penalties. He’s never reffed a senior game for an Italian side. Fun fact: he’s Frank de Boer’s son-in-law, so he’s likely not going to be cowed by players from either side.

The match will be played on Thursday, 30 November 2023, at 8:00 PM GMT/3:00 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Florence. The forecast calls for heavy rain with temperatures around 16°C/60°F, so expect a slippery surface. The fans may pack the stands anyways, though: the club is offering €1 tickets to those who missed the Juventus game to help flood victims. The Franchi probably won’t be at capacity, but the home supporters should outnumber the 1400ish Belgians significantly. Hopefully we won’t get a repeat of the ugliness from the reverse fixture, so expect a heavy police presence as well.

Fiorentina

Fiorentina’s pattern of peaks and valleys shows no signs of abating. Currently sitting 7th place (even on points with Atalanta but leading on head-to-head) feels about right for this side, all things considered. Group F of the Conference League has been similarly odd, although at least the Viola are undefeated and sit atop the standings with 8 points. A win here would guarantee advancement to the knockout rounds of the tournament, which sure would be nice.

Manager Vincenzo Italiano should have the full squad at his disposal, including Michael Kayode, who looks likely to start at rightback. Expect some rotation elsewhere, with guys like Rolando Mandragora, Ranieri, Maxime Lopez, Jonathan Ikoné, M’Bala Nzola, and Christian Kouamé getting opportunities. The mister needs to figure out his attack, as usual; without Nicolás González or Giacomo Bonaventura, Fiorentina just can’t score, but he needs to rest that pair eventually.

ACF Fiorentina v AC MIlan - Serie A
€40 million spent on strikers just for these two to score 43% of Fiorentina’s goals.
Photo by Lisa Guglielmi/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Genk will likely focus on staying compact and sit deep, although they’ll be a bit more proactive out of possession than a real park-the-bus outfit. They usually try to force everything down the wings and then press when the ball works its way back out. They’ll probably try to set a tone early with some physical play, having seen Fiorentina’s frustration in the reverse tie with that sort of treatment, so Kooij will have to keep a very close eye things.

Genk

Last year’s Jupiler League champions don’t look like repeating. They lost 1-0 at Standard Liege on Saturday, which drops them to 6th in the domestic table despite the 3rd-best goal difference in the league. Group F glory remains within their grasp, though, as their 6 points are even with Ferencváros, although they trail the Hungarians on goal difference with just 2 games remaining. A win would put them in the driver’s seat, while a draw would keep them within striking distance.

Ferencvarosi TC v KRC Genk: Group F - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

Manager Wouter Vrancken should have his full squad available. As you may recall, he’s used some type of 4-3-3 all year, alternating between a single and double pivot. The main threat should be striker Tolu Arokodare (6 goals, 3 assists), but he’s actually been outscored by Daniel Muñoz (7 goals, 2 assists), which is just weird: the rightback’s now scored in 3 straight games, so he’s clearly a danger. Midfielder Bryan Heynen (5 goals, 3 assists), winger Joseph Paintsil (5 goals, 4 assists), and striker Andi Zeqiri (5 goals) have also chipped in.

Despite winning the possession battle last time they met, Genk will likely focus on counterattacks, getting the ball directly to the forwards running in behind. With a quick, technical group of attackers, they’ll like their odds to expose a high Viola line. The secondary advantage is that, even if they don’t generate clean looks on goal, they can win fouls in space; they scored twice from set pieces in the reverse fixture, and will look to towering American Mark McKenzie in dead ball situations. In short, it’ll be the usual recipe for beating Fiorentina.

Possible lineups

Ranieri or Martínez Quarta, Arthur or Lopez, Bonaventura or Barák, Nzola or Kouamé; Cuesta or Sadick, Heynen or Galarza, Fadera or Bonsu Baah, Zeqiri or Arokodare
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How to watch

TV: Probably not, but check the international television listings to be sure.

Online: Here is your list of safe, reliable, and legal streams.

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

The bookmakers have Fiorentina as pretty heavy favorites, which is understandable. The Tuscans are, after all, a much more expensively-assembled team, top the group, and are playing at home. Of course, these same bookmakers favored the Viola to win against the Smurfs last time as well, so we can’t take it as a given that it’ll all go the way we want. Indeed, both of these teams are unpredictable enough that I wouldn’t feel comfortable staking too much on a guess.

TMBGD is no place for the fainthearted, though, so I’ll go out and call this one a 2-0 win for the good guys behind strikes from Nzola and Antonín Barák, who’s due to get one in his favorite competition. I expect Fiorentina to see more of the ball but get caught in possession in midfield enough times to require us watching to scarf down some antacids. I’m also expecting a lot of fouls, particularly for Nico, who was clearly targeted in Belgium and should receive more of the same.

Forza Viola!