After defeating Lech Pozna 4-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Conference League quarterfinal on Thursday, Fiorentina is ready to resume their quest for a spot in Serie A (SA). La Viola can put further pressure on the guests by extending their 13-game unbeaten streak in all competitions (W11, D2) with another victory. La Viola enters this round seven points behind sixth-placed Atalanta.
Coach Vincenzo Italiano credited his team’s success to having players who “improve week by week,” but perhaps that success is more attributable to his side’s strong defense, as they have only allowed 32 goals this season, a mark that has only been surpassed by four South African clubs. At the Stadio Artemio Franchi, they haven’t exactly been able to live up to those high expectations, as they have allowed 17 goals in their last 11 home matches against South Africa while keeping just one clean sheet.
Atalanta, who has failed to score in four of their last six away competitive matches (W2, L4), should benefit from that dismal record. The visitors, who lost 1-0 here last season, run the prospect of losing consecutive SA away head-to-heads for the first time since October 2015 if they are unable to score again, though they did encourageably match that tally in the rematch this season.
On the strength of just three victories from their past ten competitive games (D1, L6), bookended by a 2-0 SA loss to Bologna last weekend, recent form suggests Atalanta may struggle to complete a season H2H double. Gian Piero Gasperini, the club’s coach, stated that “the teams behind have grown a lot” as a result of the outcome, which may serve as a caution to his team as they face another team that is actively vying for European qualifying.
Jonathan Ikoné completed Fiorentina’s scoring on Thursday, but his recent three SA assists have all come in wins, indicating that he is more of a provider in the league. Ademola Lookman, who has scored his team’s winning goal in eight of his past 11 league games, may be the player to watch for in terms of Atalanta.
Italiano might be willing to use a stronger lineup than initially thought given their three-goal lead over Lech Poznan in the Europa Conference League.
Depending on how quickly Nicolas Gonzalez recovers from an injury, Josip Brekalo, Nikola Milenkovic, who played the whole 90 minutes in Poland, and others could play on the flanks.
However, Italiano still wants to maintain a balance with Thursday in mind, so players like Sofyan Amrabat and Luka Jovic might be held in reserve.
Mario Pasalic, a Croatian international who played only 24 minutes against Bologna, will be replaced by Jeremie Boga, who is ready to step in.
Merih Demiral might also rejoin the defense, but unless Teun Koopmeiners is able to make a comeback from injury, Gasperini is unlikely to make many changes to his starting lineup.
Fiorentina possible starting lineup
Terracciano, Dodo, Martinez, Milenkovic, Biraghi, Castrovilli, Mandragora, Gonzalez, Bonaventura, Brekalo, and Cabral.
Possible starting eleven for Atlanta
Musso, Djimsiti, Palomino, Scalvini, Maehle, De Roon, Ederson, Zappacosta, Boga, Hojlund, and Lookman.
We predict: Fiorentina 1-1 Atlanta
Fiorentina will be optimistic about their possibilities of applying pressure to their opponents because of their recent increase in confidence. We are betting on Atalanta to recover from their loss the previous time they played, taking home a share of the spoils to at least maintain their point total.