The Europa League is back for the start of it’s Round of 32 ties this Thursday, and this is one of the mouth-watering ties coming from Europe, as two-time winners of the old UEFA Cup Borussia Monchengladbach of the Bundesliga, take on Fiorentina of Serie A, whose only European title was the Old Cup Winners’ Cup back in 1961.
‘Gladbach dropped into the competition after finishing third in their Champion League group behind Barcelona and Manchester City, whilst Fiorentina progressed from the Europa League group stages after topping Group J ahead of Greek club PAOK Salonika, Azeri outfit Qarabag, and Czech side Slovan Liberec. The Italians won four, drew once and lost once on the way to progression.
German club ‘Gladbach are enjoying an unbeaten run of five matches in all competitions in 2017, winning each of their last four and currently lying 10th in the Bundesliga table, and so will go into their home leg with Fiorentina in encouraging form. They did, however, fail to win any of their three home fixtures in the Champions League group phase on the way to finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina have been shaky on the road in recent months, with just two wins in their last six away games in all competitions, losing the other four. Their away form in Europe has faired slightly better, however, with two victories and a draw coming in their three away matches in the Europa League group phase. Their one loss on the way to topping the group was a 2-3 reverse at home to PAOK.
‘Gladbach are expected to stick to the 4-4-2 formation implemented by Dieter Hecking that has seen them start 2017 unbeaten. With forward Raffael doubtful for the first-leg, Lars Stindl and Andre Hahn are in line to replace him, with the former the likelier to get the not to start alongside Thorgan Hazard (brother of Chelsea’s Eden), in attack. On-loan Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen is set to start at the heart of the defence.
Paulo Sousa is expected to deploy his side in a defensive 3-4-2-1 formation, with Khouma Babacar likely to get the nod to start as the lone forward ahead of Nikola Kalinic, having been widely used throughout their Europa League games this season. January signing Riccardo Saponara is expected to be handed his European debut in attacking midfield alongside Federico Bernadeschi. On-loan Aston Villa man Carlos Sánchez is expected to start in the midfield four despite being one booking away from suspension.
Borussia M.Gladbach predicted starting XI Fiorentina predicted starting XI
Raffael remains a doubt for ‘Gladbach after having sat out their last two games, with Jonas Hofmann also rated doubtful for the clash with La Viola. Indeed, the Germans have had several injury problems to contend with coming into this one, with Kolo, Ibrahima Traore, Marvin Schulz and Mamadou Doucoure all on the treatment table. Mahmoud Dahoud is expected to start, but is one booking away from suspension and will miss the away leg at Stadio Artemio Franchi if he is carded here.
Fiorentina’s only expected absentee is Federico Chiesa, who sits out the first-leg trip to Germany after carrying over a suspension from the group stages. Meanwhile, Carlos Sánchez is one booking away from suspension and although expected to feature, a booking at Borussia Park would see him out of the return leg in Florence.
‘Gladbach’s recent upturn in form under Dieter Hecking is cause for encouragement, and they will be striving to pick up their first win at home in a European proper competition this season. With Fiorentina’s rocky away form in mind, there are always goals in their games, with over 2.5 goals going in during each of La Viola’s last five in the competition, the Italians netting at least two in all of those games.
Their most difficult away assignment in the group stages saw them pick up a point at PAOK, but we expected Fiorentina’s struggles to continue against an in-form side who should finally get off the mark at home in Europe this season. Our call is Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 Fiorentina.
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