clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Europa League Preview: Juventus vs. Fiorentina, Leg 1 — Familiar Faces

New, comments

It's almost like these two teams played at Juventus Stadium a couple days ago or something. Thanks for keeping things interesting, Europa League!

Valerio Pennicino

When trying to think of something to compare Juventus and Fiorentina playing one another twice within a five-day period, only one thing came to my mind: The NBA playoffs. Before you yell at me for being a stupid American, just hear me out. Two teams, open a series on a Sunday, take three days off to recuperate and make adjust to the previous, then go against one another again. Same location, virtually the same start time, virtually the same people participating.

So, in a way, think of Juventus vs. Fiorentina Round 2 as the second game in a best-of-three series.

The only thing is that Sunday was a Serie A game, this next one has something a little different on the line.

Instead of Juve-Viola in Italy, it's Juve-Viola in Europe. Well, it's still technically Juve-Viola in Italy, but you probably get what I'm trying to say here. The first leg of Juventus and Fiorentina's Round of 16 Europa League clash sees both teams take the same field they played on while most people in Italy enjoyed some lunch four days ago.

It will be different than a few days earlier, because why wouldn't it be?

"We'll witness a different pace on Thursday. The manager will make his assessments, we'll need fresh legs for the game."

(Source: juventus.com)

Those are the words of a certain central defender of Italian heritage who goes by the name of Andrea Barzagli after Juve's 1-0 win over Fiorentina on Sunday. And you know what? He's exactly right. When you have two managers of Antonio Conte and Vincenzo Montella's quality, then there's bound to be some things that are different between two clubs who know each other so well with such a short time separating each game.

Italy on Italy crime in Europe? What could possibly go wrong!

GOOD NEWS

This weekend's final score...

...was better than that score from mid-October.

See? Revenge is cool. And thanks for the kick in the ass, Fiorentina.

BAD NEWS

Oh.

To be fair, though, the starting defense that night in London was (right to left) Salihamidzic-Zebina-Cannavaro-Grosso. That certainly might have played a part in Juventus imploding on epic proportions and crashing out of the Europa League during those awful, awful days before Conte came back and saved our sanity.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

1. How both teams adjust after Sunday's meh-fest.

Juventus threw the first punch, now we wait to see how Fiorentina counter the opening blow. By no means was Sunday's 1-0 win thrilling nor anything close to a master class by Antonio Conte's squad. It was pretty simple in the first 45 minutes and the lead rightfully showed that. But the try-to-hang-on approach in the second half was far to anybody's liking. And just because they lost, Fiorentina isn't the only team that has to adjust. You know Conte has already drawn up something that is different than what his team did on Sunday. It's the game within the game between Conte and Montella — something we thought we'd only get to see twice a season in Serie A.

2. Who will Antonio Conte pair with Dani Osvaldo up front?

Two Europa League games isn't a huge sample size to draw up concrete conclusions, but I have come away with this important piece of information: Antonio Conte will start Dani Osvaldo no matter who Juve is going to be playing during their Europa League run this season. And, quite frankly, Osvaldo hasn't done anything to prove his new manager wrong, scoring a goal in each leg against Trabzonspor. The question is, who will play alongside Captain Jack Sparrow's doppelganger? If Conte had starting Carlos Tevez, that might not be the case. That means two options remain — Fernando Llorente and Sebastian Giovinco. Based off of how Conte has played things in Juve's adventure with Trabzonspor, starting Llorente in the Europa League isn't really much of an option.

3. Does Claudio Marchisio keep a spot in the starting lineup?

With Andrea Pirlo being suspended in Round 1 of Juve-Fiorentina over the weekend, there's no reason to think the wonderfully bearded maestro doesn't start tomorrow night. That is, of course, Antonio Conte chooses to hold him out for the weekend. But it's not like Juve have some huuuuuuge, season-defining match on the horizon. Sure Genoa are playing well, but appearing in multiple games in a week isn't out of the equation for Pirlo. That means Conte could use the first Europa League encounter against Fiorentina to give one of either Arturo Vidal or Paul Pogba a bit of a break entering the weekend. And as a result, Marchisio will find himself playing from the start once again — albeit in a different, non-regista position.

4. Federico Peluso or Kwadwo Asamoah?

The interesting thing in this is that my preference on who starts at left wingback for Juventus could very well depend on if Juan Cuadrado starts for Fiorentina from the opening whistle. If we get Cuadrado, then I sure as hell am going to prefer Asamoah starting over Peluso. We all saw it in the first go around — Asamoah clearly won the battle in the Asamoah-Cuadrado matchup. Oh, and scored a completely awesome goal to boot.

Does his performance on Sunday mean Asamoah is definitely starting tomorrow night? I really have no clue. Unlike with Osvaldo, Asamoah hasn't appeared in either of Juve's Europa League games thus far. Instead, it's been Peluso getting both the starts against Trabzonspor. Do we really need to see Peluso against Cuadrado? That's like yellow card upon yellow card just waiting to happen.

5. Juventus staying away from away goals.

The great thing about facing Trabzonspor is that we didn't even need to mess around with any of these fancy away goal thingamajigs. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this Fiorentina side, regardless of how much they are struggling right now (one win in their last seven league games), are better than Trabzonspor. That's not just because Juve has seen them a few more times over the last few years, it's just a general line of thinking I have. Because of that notion, the likelihood of giving up a goal is already more likely than against the previously mentioned Turks. And did I mention the first leg is at Juventus Stadium tomorrow night? Yeah, it's at Juventus Stadium tomorrow night.

My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Isla, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Osvaldo, Giovinco

OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 9:05 P.M. IN ITALY; 4:05 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 1:05 P.M. ON THE WEST COAST