Preview: Fiorentina vs. Rapid Vienna

Preview: Fiorentina vs. Rapid Vienna

Following last week’s loss in Austria, Fiorentina start with a deficit in Thursday’s Europa Conference League playoff tie against Rapid Vienna.

The clubs reconvene for the second leg at Stadio Artemio Franchi, where the aggregate winner will go into Friday’s group stage draw.

Having missed out to West Ham in June’s Europa Conference League decider, Fiorentina began the long route towards the 2024 final last Thursday, when they ventured to Vienna for the first leg of their qualifying playoff.

After coming up just short both in Europe and last season’s Coppa Italia, the team that finished only eighth in Serie A took advantage of UEFA banning Juventus from continental competition to book a Conference League return.

Highly-rated coach Vincenzo Italiano made only one change from the XI that saw off promoted Genoa on the opening day of their league campaign, but his decision to prioritise continuity over fresh legs did not pan out perfectly at Allianz Stadion.

In front of a large crowd in the Austrian capital, Fiorentina midfielder Rolando Mandragora was penalised for a first-half foul in his own penalty area, allowing Rapid Vienna’s Marco Grull to convert the subsequent spot-kick; ultimately deciding the game.

Perhaps such a result was no surprise to fans of the Viola, as their team won just six away games in the league last season – but then failing to put away Lecce at Stadio Franchi on Sunday served a blow to hopes of building momentum in Serie A.

After Nicolas Gonzalez netted his fourth successive headed goal and Alfred Duncan added a second before the break, three points seemed assured for Italiano’s side. A couple of second-half lapses, however, allowed their Puglian visitors to pull level and take a 2-2 draw home from Tuscany.

Following their first-leg success last Thursday, Rapid also had to settle for a point at the weekend, as they could not turn their dominance into a third Austrian Bundesliga win of the season at home to WSG Tirol.

Die Grun-Weissen’s 1-1 draw, though, extends their unbeaten run to four games, including Conference League victories over Fiorentina and third qualifying round victims Debrecen, of Hungary.

Compared to inevitable league leaders Red Bull Salzburg – who have won all five matches so far – Rapid boast a long history in UEFA competition, having twice reached European finals in the past.

However, they have more recently been overshadowed, finishing only fourth and fifth over the past two years, and were absent from Europe entirely last term.

Now, Zoran Barisic’s side can make a name for themselves by knocking out last season’s Conference League finalists and securing a spot in the autumn group phase – however, there are at least 90 minutes at the inimitable Stadio Franchi to negotiate yet.

Fiorentina Europa Conference League form:

Fiorentina form (all competitions):

Rapid Vienna Europa Conference League form:

Rapid Vienna form (all competitions):

We say: Fiorentina 2-1 Rapid Vienna (2-2 on aggregate after extra time; Fiorentina win on penalties)
Consistently unpredictable, just when Fiorentina seem to be building momentum they often shoot themselves in the foot. Recent results have shown that the Viola remain a law unto themselves, so Vincenzo Italiano’s men may have to take the long route into the group stage – extra time and spot-kicks could even be required to edge out a spirited Rapid Vienna side.

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