That pulsating game against Atalanta was one of the games of the season and Fiorentina will hope for a simpler task against Lech Poznań in the Conference League quarterfinal. The reverse fixture ended in a 1-4 romp for the good guys and we’ll be hoping for more of the same, although last time these two met in Florence, it was the Poles who went home happiest.
The referee for this one is Rade Obrenović of Slovenia. In 24 appearances this year, he’s handed out 100 yellow cards, 6 red cards, and 5 penalties. He’s never handled a senior club game for an Italian side. From what I can gather, he hasn’t made any egregious errors in his career but has had a couple of VAR hiccups that have irritated some folks, which is, in fairness, the nature of VAR.
The match will be played on Thursday, 20 April 2023, at 4:45 PM GMT/12:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in beautiful Firenze. The forecast calls for a nice enough spring day in the morning, but the rain’s expected to start just before kickoff, so this could be a bit damper than you’d like. Add to that the possibility of a low supporter turnout due to a kickoff shortly after the workday ends, and you have the potential for a less impressive atmosphere than the Poles managed to produce.
The unbeaten streak stretches ever longer and has now reached a remarkable 14 straight games as Fiorentina remains one of the most in-form teams in Europe. Over that stretch, the Viola have scored 30 goals and conceded just 8 while meshing into a tight-knit group that’s got the entire city behind it. It feels like the belief in the squad is reaching extraordinary levels, and the players believe they can do something special this year.
Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have LW Josip Brekalo and may miss DM Sofyan Amrabat as well. After that banger against la Dea, he’ll likely rotate his side quite a bit here to keep legs fresh, given the 3-goal advantage. Igor, Lorenzo Venuti, Riccardo Sottil, and Luka Jović are all decent bets to start, and we could even see the likes of Alfred Duncan and Christian Kouamé emerge from hibernation.
Since the visitors will have to push forward, expect Fiorentina to sit off a bit and soak up some pressure, especially with some of the reserves in there. There should be plenty of room to attack on the counter, though; if the Viola can pick off a goal on the break, they’ll effectively end this one and could break it wide open. Even so, don’t expect a parked bus, because Italiano will still want his side to control the match. They may be a bit more reserved than normal, but this is well set up for our boys in purple.
Lech Poznań has been in fine form as well, going undefeated over 6 straight Ekstraklasa matches and climbing to 3rd place in the league, 1 ahead of Pogoń Szczecin. The Kolejorz may be down in this fixture but they’re not out; they’ve already come from behind twice this year to win matches and, based on their record at the Franchi, will feel confident.
Manager John van der Brom won’t have CB Bartosz Salamon after the veteran was ssuspended for failing a drugs test last week. He’s generally favored a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 this year, but has often dropped into a 3-5-2 in Europe, as he did last week. Because Lech have the personnel to be quite flexible, we may not know how they’re actually approaching this until kickoff, but keep an eye on the lineup for some clues as to whether van der Brom will throw numbers forward or try to stay a bit more solid.
Before facing Fiorentina, the Railwaymen had conceded just 8 goals in 10 Conference League matches (and half of those in the opener at Villarreal), so they can rely on their defense. Big Mikal Ishak is a tricky proposition up front, as we saw last week; while he’s not a speedster, he’s strong and clever and excellent at finding space and linking play. Expect him to be the focal point and a regular target for long passes as Lech go direct.
How to watch
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Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Fiorentina are big favorites to win outright, much less draw or even lose and go through to the semis. That 3-goal lead and a sparkling home record (the Viola have only lost at the Franchi 4 times this year, and 1 of those was a Pierluigi Gollini disasterclass) are the motivation. It’s hard to imagine the hosts coughing up their advantage, even with the anticipated squad rotation.
I’ll make it a professional 2-0 to the good as Fiorentina manage the outing competently, grabbing a first-half goal through Giacomo Bonaventura and then adding a late one via one of the substitutes (Riccardo Saponara banger, anyone?) while mostly controlling the proceedings and mostly restricting Lech to speculative efforts.