In the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday at Prague’s Fortuna Arena, Fiorentina will face West Ham United with both teams hoping to break a protracted trophy drought.
The teams meet in the capital of the Czech Republic; the Hammers have waited nearly twice as long as the Viola and the Viola’s last trophy was won about 22 years ago. As the top scorers of the competition face off against unbeaten opponents, one will now succeed the competition’s first place winners, Roma.
Fiorentina and West Ham United will face off in the UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) final in Prague, after a long wait since they last each claimed a major UEFA victory in the 1960s. The similarities don’t stop there because both teams didn’t finish in the top four of their domestic leagues, making a victory here their only chance of qualifying for Europe next season.
The Italian team has already made history by becoming the first team to advance to the final of each of the four major UEFA tournaments. They will now try to increase their success rate in UEFA finals after winning the European Cup just once in four previous attempts (W1, L3), an emphatic victory over Rangers in 1961. The Violets enter this championship match having just completed their domestic campaign with two Serie A victories, suggesting that they have seemingly moved past their Coppa Italia defeat to Inter Milan in late May.
They had to overcome Basel to go this far, and they did it by winning their semifinal after losing the first leg at home but winning the second leg in overtime. They also lost the first leg of their quarterfinal match against Lech Pozna at home, but given that they have won their past six UECL matches away from home, they should be optimistic about picking up another win there.
With only two victories in their final seven league games (L5), West Ham finished 14th in the Premier League, making the European stage the season’s undisputed high point. They advanced more easily than their opponents to the final (W13, D1), but they have historically struggled against Italian opponents, thus they will need to make history to win their second ever European title.
Older Hammers supporters will recall two 1-0 head to head losses in the 1975 Anglo-Italian Cup, the only times these two teams have ever met. Since then, it has been a similar narrative as they fell twice to Palermo in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup, their only other encounter with an Italian team.
Arthur Cabral of Fiorentina is the tournament’s leading top scorer with seven goals, three of which came in the first half. Michail Antonio, who has scored six UECL goals this season, all after the 35th minute, would be expected to respond if there were another, leaving West Ham hoping for one.
Many of Vincenzo Italiano’s key players will rejoin the team after being rested for the most recent Serie A contest. Salvatore Sirigu, the backup goalkeeper, appears to be out with an injury, but Nico Gonzalez should start after reporting healthy.
— ACF Fiorentina English (@ACFFiorentinaEN) June 6, 2023
Gonzalez will support the frontline, particularly for Brazilian center striker Arthur Cabal, who scored twice against FC Basel and is now on a hot streak. If declared fit, Antonin Barak might return to his old stadium and compete in the championship game.
The double pivot in center midfield would probably be maintained by Sofyan Amrabat and Rolando Mandragora. Along with Gonzalez and Cabral, the front four might also include Jonathan Ikone and Giacomo Bonaventura.
Italiano is expected to go with his preferred back four at the back. While captain Cristiano Biraghi will command from left back, Dodo will play right back. To try and silence the West Ham frontline, Lucas Martinez Wuarta and Nikal Milenkovic will hold down the fort in the center.
Fiorentina possible starting lineup
Terracciano, Dodo, Martinez Quarta, Milenkovic, Biraghi, Amrabat, Mandragora, Gonzalez, Bonaventura, Ikone and Cabral are the players in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
West Ham United
Before selecting his starting eleven for the Prague final, David Moyes will make numerous changes. The in demand Declan Rice and Michail Antonio are among the guys who are routinely starting. The other two might be Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, who have both recently visited their own countries.
Czeching out tomorrow's venue 🏟 pic.twitter.com/EBailrHYF2
— West Ham United (@WestHam) June 6, 2023
Prior to the final game, Gianluca Scamacca is still the only player still unavailable for West Ham. With Rice and Soucek holding down the midfield, Antonio will start and lead the line for the Hammers. In an advanced position behind the front three, Lucas Paqueta will get the ball first before the midfield pair.
While Fornals demonstrated his value against Alkmaar in the semifinals, he must be content with a spot on the bench. While Jarrod Bowen fills the position of the right wing, Said Benrahma will play on the left side of the attack.
Thilo Kehrer might start at right back instead of Coufal for Moyes at the back. The favoured central defensive pairing is Nayef Aguerd and Kurt Zouma, with Aaron Cresswell playing left back.
West Ham United possible starting lineup
Fabianski, Kehrer, Aguerd, Zouma, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma and Antonio make up the 4-2-3-1 formation.
We predict: Fiorentina 1-2 West Ham United
Given that Fiorentina is unlikely to err on the side of morality and might challenge West Ham, an exciting matchup is in store. But it could be a contentious match because both teams are eager to win.
Despite the Viola’s many offensive possibilities, the Hammers’ superior defensive fortitude may end up being the determining factor, along with a clear set-piece danger.