I was discussing the game earlier in the week with John Pargiter. Both teams are going for a Champions League position and in the case of Spurs the FA Cup too, so I was unsure how seriously they would treat this Europa League competition. I liked the description of it by one Fiorentina blogger as like the Beatles song The Long and Winding Road. It’s a competition that clubs seem as eager to leave as to join if they are going for more lucrative competitions. Thus in terms of betting which is John’s main interest it’s hard to call. Fiorentina have a fine home record against English opposition. They have not even ever conceded a goal at the Frnachi against an English club and beaten Manchester United 2-0 in the Red Devils days of Keane, Beckham and Giggs. so I advised him to lay (bet against Spurs) who won 2-1.
My ritual is to arrive at the stadium early and have a cappuccino at the famous Bar Marisa by the ground where the most dedicated of Viola fans gather. There was much to discuss with them. Firstly the team tonight. Would Kalinic, who works so hard but cannot score, play ahead of Zarate or Babacar? Could Bernardeschi our brilliant young talent play 2 games in 5 days after Inter on Sunday? And what of coach Sousa who was so vocal in his disappointment over signings? Would he go to the hated Juve if Allegri leaves? Even in the Bar Marisa I could see too that it was less crowded than normal. In taking up my seat in the main Tribuna the stadium was half empty. The Franchi is one of the most partisan of grounds so I was amazed that so few had attended.
A worse feeling followed. Fiorentina could not deal with Pocchetino’s famous pressing game where his forwards literally pin you down in your own half. Normally we are used to midfield pressing and had great difficulty in clearing our lines. It was no surprise that Spurs took a early lead through a penalty. I did feel that the referee, who had a poor game getting offsides wrong as well, should have sent off Alli for kicking Tomovic. If he missed the kick fine but he clearly witnessed it as he gave a yellow card. Again a fill Fracnhi in noisy voice could have “persauded” the referee. John texted “what now?”. I told him to lay Spurs at shorter odds as I believed la Viola would equalise which they did after a brilliant strike from Bernardeschi. The score line remained 1-1 with Fiorentina in the ascendancy. The problem with high pressing game is that it requires incredible fitness levels. In the last quarter Spurs did tire and it was them who were pressed back. One Viola fan texted me from London that this Spurs side was much improved from the one we played them last year in this same round.
We need to score at least once at White Hart lane next Thursday. This is going to be a problem as none of our three strikers Kalininc, Zarate and Babacar are prolific. Therefore we need Josef Ilacic who play is in in a mezzo panto role behind the strikers to add his firepower but his is a mercurial talent. Last night and against Inter he made little input and I would play Bernardeschi more central. Hanging onto Bernardeschi who is wanted by Barcelona is another problem for us.
For the return leg next week I am in Rome on 4 day Miclehalngelo tour of his churches. Michelangelo was of course a Florentine, his patron was Lorenzo de Medici, so I’m hopeful this is a good augur. Fortunately the Thurday night is free so I am in contact with Massimo of the Viola Club in Roma to watch the match with them. If we go through it will be more of masterpiece than the Sistene Chapel.