Preview: Fiorentina vs. Sivasspor
Serie A’s Fiorentina host Turkish strugglers Sivasspor in the first leg of their Europa Conference League round of 16 tie on Thursday night.
La Viola scored seven goals across a two-legged victory against Braga to set up a knockout tie with a Sivasspor side that finished top of their Conference League group to automatically qualify for this stage of the competition.
Last Friday, Fiorentina marked the fifth anniversary of the sudden passing of the club’s former captain Davide Astori by beating a Milan side managed by Stefano Pioli, the coach that was in charge of La Viola when his skipper tragically died on the eve of a game against Udinese in 2018.
Nicolas Gonzalez’s penalty and Luka Jovic’s diving header against Milan extended Fiorentina’s unbeaten streak to five matches across all competitions, plundering 13 goals in that prolific window.
Vincenzo Italiano’s side remain locked in the purgatory of mid-table despite this lossless spell, as the club are still recovering from a sluggish start to the season which brought two wins from the first 11 league games of the campaign.
Fiorentina were also forced to play catch-up in the Conference League after dropping points at home to Latvian side RFS and losing to Sivasspor’s Turkish rivals Basaksehir in their opening two group games.
La Viola recovered to win their remaining matches in the competition and canter into the round of 16 on a run of six consecutive European victories – the joint-longest winning sequence in the Conference League this season.
Sivasspor coach Riza Calimbay warned that Turkey’s top flight would be a “chaotic” and “sad league” after the devastating earthquakes in the region at the start of February, and his side’s first competitive game after the tragedy lived up to his prediction.
Jordy Caicedo gave Calimbay’s side a 1-0 lead to take into first-half stoppage time against Fatih Karagumruk on Saturday before Sivasspor shipped four goals, including a Mbaye Diagne hat-trick, in the space of 35 minutes – a brace from Leke James was not enough to earn any points but provided a fitting conclusion to a bonkers 4-3 loss.
Much like Fiorentina, Sivasspor began the campaign slowly, failing to win their opening eight Super Lig games after a strong end to the previous season earned the club a top-half finish.
Calimbay, now into the fourth year of his second spell at the club, only managed to steer Sivasspor out of the relegation zone just before the league was forced into a mid-season hiatus, with his side sitting just two places and points above the dreaded dotted line.
This is the first time Sivasspor have ever made it to the round of 16 of any UEFA competition while Fiorentina went as far as the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2015, losing to eventual winners Sevilla.
Fiorentina Europa Conference League form:
Fiorentina form (all competitions):
Sivasspor Europa Conference League form:
Sivasspor form (all competitions):
We say: Fiorentina 3-0 Sivasspor
Fiorentina are one of the favourites to win the entire tournament let alone a home tie against a struggling Turkish team still piecing itself back together after the natural disasters in the area.