Preview: Fiorentina vs. Braga
Fiorentina will be aiming to complete a professional job against Braga on Thursday and secure their place in the last 16 of the Europa Conference League.
The Italian side won 4-0 in Portugal last week, with Vitor Tormena’s sending off leaving the hosts in a world of trouble.
However, Fiorentina had already secured a 1-0 lead at half time at Estadio Municipal de Braga through Luka Jovic’s header just before the break, with the Serbian striker latching onto a trademark Cristiano Biraghi cross from the left flank.
Ten minutes into the second half, Jovic was the victim of a senseless stamp from Tormena, who was rightly given his marching orders after a VAR check. Rather than rest on their marginal lead, I Viola pushed hard for a more comfortable lead to take home to Florence, with Jovic doubling his side’s lead on the hour mark.
Arthur Cabral added fresh impetus to the visitors’ attack after coming off the bench, scoring an absurd effort after juggling the ball past four defenders before swiveling and volleying a bullet beyond the reach of Matheus Magalhaes in the hosts’ net. Cabral doubled his tally in the last minute of the match after fine work from Jonathan Ikone.
It would take a monumental collapse for Vincenzo Italiano’s side not to book their place in the last 16 of Europe’s third competition at Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday, which would leave the door ajar for them to launch an assault at a cup double this season.
Indeed, they have a Coppa Italia semi-final against Serie A’s rock-bottom side Cremonese to look forward to in April, which provides a welcome distraction from both teams’ disastrous league campaigns, after Fiorentina failed to win for a sixth successive game in Italy’s top flight with a 1-1 draw against Empoli on Sunday.
Having enjoyed an excellent domestic season to sit comfortably clear of Sporting Lisbon in third place, Artur Jorge would have been stunned by his side’s collapse on home territory during their first leg last week.
While Tormena’s red card provided mitigation for falling to defeat against an accomplished side, there was no such excuse for the nature of his side’s loss, which has all but ended their chances of progressing deep into European competition this season.
Jorge and his players will be keen to focus on the positives of their campaign so far, though, with them retaining an outside chance of ousting Benfica and Porto to win their first ever Portugal Primeira Liga title. More realistically, they will hope to hold onto third spot at worst – and the prize of Champions League qualification which comes with it.
Like their forthcoming opponents, they will also head into a domestic cup semi-final as huge favourites to book their place in the final, with second-tier side Nacional awaiting them in late April in Taca de Portugal.
In terms of their trip to Italy on Thursday, though, Jorge will be demanding that his players recover a certain element of pride after their mauling last week. If they are to stand any chance of completing one of the most remarkable turnarounds in European footballing history, they will almost certainly require an early goal.
Fiorentina Europa Conference League form:
Fiorentina form (all competitions):
Braga Europa Conference League form:
Braga form (all competitions):
We say: Fiorentina 1-1 Braga
In reality, there is very little for either team to play for in this match given the extent of Fiorentina’s four-goal lead. Braga will need to score at least once during the early exchanges to make things remotely interesting.
As such, we can see the match petering out during the second half, with both managers likely to be content with avoiding defeat and preserving their players’ legs ahead of important away matches in their respective domestic divisions.