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Rapid Wien vs Fiorentina: Preview

The prelude to the Conference League begins now.

Grosseto v Fiorentina - Pre-season Friendly Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Mollywhopping Genoa 1-4 in the season opener certainly set a tone, but a trip to Austria will likely prove a stiffer test than the newly-promoted Ligurians. Fiorentina kick off their second consecutive European tour with a first leg at Rapid Wien this week. A bad result could hamstring the Viola’s chances of reaching a second consecutive Conference League final, so no pressure.

The referee for this one is 37-year-old Croatian Igor Pajač. In 5 matches this year—3 domestic and 2 Champions League qualifiers—he’s handed out 17 yellow cards and 2 penalties, which would seem to indicate a pretty laissez-faire attitude; don’t be surprised if the hosts try to set a very physical tone early and see if they can intimidate their visitors.

The match will be played on Thursday, 24 August 2023, at 5:00 PM GMT/1:00 PM EST, at the Allianz Stadion in Vienna. The forecast calls for a scorcher, with temperatures reaching past 33°C/90°F. Despite the heat, though, it sounds like it could be a sellout crowd, with over 20,000 tickets already sold for the 23,500 capacity arena. Expect a warm reception indeed for the few hundred traveling fans.

Rapid Wien

Rapid Wien have gotten out to a decent start this season as they sit 3rd in the Austria Bundesliga, with 2 wins, a draw, and a loss. They knocked Hungary’s Debrecen out of qualifying in the last round of the Conference League and smashed a second division side in the first round of the cup. In those 7 games, they’ve scored 22 goals and conceded just 2; when they win, they win big (0-7, 4-0, 0-5, 0-5), but they haven’t won any low-scoring matches yet.

Manager Zoran Barisic won’t have CB Nenad Ctevković but has the rest of his squad available. He’ll likely send out a 4-2-3-1, although he has used a 3-5-2 in the past and could opt for an extra defender against Fiorentina. The dangerman is CF Guido Burgstaller (5 goals, 2 assists) although all of the front 4 are genuine threats.

Rapid Wien will likely play a very direct game, either looking for Burgstaller to win high balls and bring his fellow attackers into play or looking for space in behind Fiorentina’s fullbacks. They like to work the wide areas and cross, with the wingers crashing the posts, and the fullbacks get forward quite well (RB Thorsten Schick’s 6 assists lead the club so far). They won’t keep the ball in the middle much and will focus on transitions more than possession.


A big win in the first competitive game of the season has silenced the critics that emerged throughout a slightly rocky string of preseason outings, but Fiorentina still has a lot to do before earning a spot as a domestic and European contender. Keeping the ball rolling is really important here, as advancing to the Conference League proper will mean playing twice a week for the next couple of months and, as we saw last year, good results in a row generate momentum.

Manager Vincenzo Italiano won’t have Antonín Barák or Luka Jović, while Jonathan Ikoné, Edoardo Pierozzi, and Christian Kouamé are all likely to be back in the squad. We could see debuts for Oliver Christensen, Yerry Mina, and Fabiano Parisi, while Lucas Beltrán could get his first start too. It’ll be interesting to see how the mister rotates his squad with Lecce waiting on Sunday and a lot of the new signings still settling in; we could see the minutes start to stack up for some of the key members while injuries and transfer business take bites out of the roster.

Rapid Wien will defend deep and narrow in 2 banks of 4, so breaking them down isn’t exactly a new challenge. The Viola should dominate possession and territory but will need to find ways through a well-drilled opponent. Getting an extra body or two into the area could make a difference, as could finding the minimal space between the lines. As usual, it feels like we’ll be hoping for Nicolás González to do something fantastic more than anything else.

Possible lineups

Terracciano or Christensen, Mandragora or Duncan, Kouamé or Sottil, Beltrán or Nzola
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How to watch

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

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

Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department

The betting houses have Fiorentina as significant favorites, which isn’t too surprising even away from home: the Viola have a much more expensive squad and a lot of better-known players. The potential stumbling blocks—Rapid Wien is further into its season, which usually means a better-gelling team, and plays the exact type of ball that troubles Fiorentina—are notable but not too concerning.

I’m going to call it a 1-2 win for the good guys behind goals from Beltrán and Kouamé, with Burgstaller pulling one back for the bad guys. I’m fully expecting Fiorentina to see the lion’s share of possession as Rapid break things up with a series of fouls that go largely unpunished while producing a couple of good moments on the break, but it’ll be largely one-way traffic. At least, that’s the fervent hope.

Forza Viola!