Who advances from the playoffs will be decided by Thursday’s second-leg match between FC Twente and Fiorentina in the fight for a spot in the Europa Conference League group stage.
Despite having a one-goal advantage after the first leg in Florence, the hosts at De Grolsch Veste will be attempting to prolong their first trip to Europe in eight years.
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Despite winning the first leg 2-1 at Stadio Artemio Franchi last week, Fiorentina might feel that they missed an opportunity to end the match and practically guarantee their passage into the Conference League’s group stage.
Vincenzo Italiano’s team only has the slightest edge heading to the Netherlands after gaining a two-goal lead early in the second half thanks to goals from Nicolas Gonzalez and Arthur Cabral before giving it back.
The fact that Twente scored with their lone shot on goal will hurt the Serie A team even more, but after posting two victories and going undefeated in their first three games of the new season, there are encouraging signs that they can keep improving since Italiano’s appointment last year.
After placing seventh in Italy’s premier division the previous season and establishing themselves as one of the league’s most entertaining teams, the Viola competed in continental competition for the first time in six years.
They appear to have maintained their momentum since the summer break as they defeated promoted Cremonese 3-2 on the opening day of the season and then followed up their Conference League victory with a tense 0-0 draw in a Tuscan derby last weekend.
Fiorentina were unable to defeat an Empoli team playing with 10 men for the final quarter of the game, even though they managed to keep a rare clean sheet. Their road record continues to contrast with some exceptional home form.
The Viola have won 15 of their last 21 games at the Franchi, but they are always more vulnerable away from Florence. This will be their first and possibly final trip to Europe this season. Vaclav Cerny’s goal in the 64th minute last week gave Twente a huge lift ahead of Thursday’s home leg, and they may be hopeful of pulling off an upset in Enschede.
Ron Jans will expect his team to play at full strength for Fiorentina’s visit, and a promising start to the season suggests they should be up to the task. They had the benefit of a weekend off from Eredivisie duty to prepare.
Twente defeated Cukaricki in their first Conference League match with a resounding 7-2 aggregate victory earlier this month. Twente finished fourth last season, qualifying for a long-awaited return to Europe.
The Tukkers also defeated NEC Nijmegen to start their league campaign, and then defeated Fortuna Sittard at home..
Indeed, they had won each of their previous six games prior to their defeat in Florence, so there is still a very good chance that they will advance to the European group stage for the first time since their return to the top division in 2019.
Twente will present a significant challenge for Fiorentina, who are only getting up to speed after playing less competitive games thus far, however, the Viola will be the ones rejoicing when the game is over.