The Europa Conference League semifinals begin on Thursday night with Fiorentina hosting Basel from Switzerland at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Fiorentina and Basel will both be eager to secure a first leg advantage in Tuscany as they compete to meet West Ham United or AZ Alkmaar in the final game.
The UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) semifinalists Fiorentina will be hoping that third time’s the charm in the final four of a European competition for the first time since 2015, when they missed out on a continental final for the second time this century. But they managed to hold off a significant assault in the quarterfinal second leg, losing 3-2 to Lech Pozna at home for a 6-4 aggregate victory that had the Stadio Artemio Franchi on edge.
Older Fiorentina supporters have to think back to 1990 for the club’s most recent European final, and if that is to change, a significant defensive improvement on home soil would be well advised. Despite having a strong home record in this tournament previous to the Lech game (W5, D1), La Viola have only recorded one UECL home shutout in seven tries.
Basel won’t be underestimated, though, especially after defeating a highly favored Nice team in extra time following a late equalizer on the French Riviera. The Rotblau will then receive the chance to atone for the mistakes made in the 2013 UEFA Europa League semifinals, which Chelsea ultimately won 5-2 on aggregate.
Even though the majority of Basel supporters will want to see their club go for the kill once more, it wouldn’t be a bad result to carry a level aggregate score into the second leg at St. Jakob-Park. They have recently developed into UECL draw specialists, with each of their previous four continental matches concluding with the teams tied after 90 minutes.
Arthur Cabral, who shares the lead with Luka Jovi with six UECL goals, missed Fiorentina’s Sunday defeat at Napoli but is still pursuing the distinction of becoming the first Brazilian to win the UEFA competition’s Golden Boot outright since Vágner Love in 2009. Even if they are enemies in one way, they are brought together by a shared foe, particularly Kasim Nuhu, who capped Basel’s heroics against Nice by scoring three of his last four goals that were game-winners after the hour mark.
Arthur Cabral, a crucial striker for Fiorentina, is expected to miss the first leg due to an injury sustained on Sunday against Napoli.
The hosts will be without Cabral, who has 15 goals this year, including six in his past seven Conference League games. On Thursday, Luka Jovic is anticipated to start at the front of the line.
Salvatore Sirigu, a seasoned goalkeeper for La Viola, is also undergoing treatment, thus Pietro Terracciano will remain in goal.
Sofyan Amrabat, a Moroccan international, will stabilize the midfield alongside Alfred Duncan so that Giacomo Bonaventura can advance in support of Jovic.
Arnau Comas, a Spanish defender, is still out for Basel owing to a thigh injury, while veteran midfielder Fabian Frei will miss the match on Thursday because of a back problem.
Additionally, the health of Andy Pelmard and Riccardo Calafiori, who both missed Sunday’s loss to FC Zurich, is in doubt.
Zeki Amdouni and Andi Zeqiri, who have both scored five Conference League goals this season, will stay in attack, with Taulant Xhaka and Wouter Burger manning central midfield.
Fiorentina possible starting lineup
Terracciano, Dodo, Milenkovic, Igor, Terzic, Amrabat, Duncan, Gonzalez, Bonaventura, Sottil and Jovic.
Basel possible starting lineup
Hitz, Lang, Kasim, Lopez, Ndoye, Xhaka, Burger, Millar, Males, Amdouni and Zeqiri.
We predict: Fiorentina 2-1 Basel
There is no getting around the reality that Fiorentina and Basel are both in shaky shape heading into their match up on Thursday, but we anticipate La Viola to grind out a slim first leg advantage at home.