ACF Fiorentina vs Borussia Mönchengladbach Preview: Foals boosted by Raffael return

ACF Fiorentina vs Borussia Mönchengladbach Preview: Foals boosted by Raffael return

La Viola are favourites after winning the first leg in Germany, but Dieter Hecking and his players are confident of turning the tie around.

James Rees

ACF Fiorentina have a 1-0 lead to defend in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League last-32 tie with Borussia Mönchengladbach on Thursday

Federico Bernardeschi’s goal in the first leg is the difference between the two sides, who are both confident of coming out on top on what is likely to be a rainy night in Florence.

For Gladbach though, it could be a tough test given their indifferent away form and Fiorentina’s impressive record in front of their own fans, however they will have Raffael available again after his brief injury lay-off.

Tough ask for Germans after narrow loss

Gladbach would have considered themselves unfortunate to have lost to Fiorentina last Thursday. Bernardeschi scored just before half-time with a peach of a free-kick, however they had more than enough chances to get something from the game, with 18 shots compared to La Viola’s eight.

On Sunday, Fiorentina lost the big Sunday night Serie A clash at the San Siro against AC Milan, with a goal for Nikola Kalinic in the 2-1 defeat. Earlier in the day, Gladbach’s three-game winning streak in the Bundesliga was brought to an end by high-flying RB Leipzig by the same score, with Jannik Vestergaard’s late goal proving to be only a consolation.

It could be a tough task for them to turn around the tie in Florence. Fiorentina have never lost to German opposition at home whilst the German team have only won once in seven trips to Italy, against Torino in 1976.

Gladbach’s away form domestically has started to improve under Dieter Hecking, whilst they’ve won half of their away games in Europe so far this season. However, the wins were against BSC Young Boys and Celtic, whilst they lost heavily to Manchester City and FC Barcelona.

La Viola won two of their three Europa League group matches at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, but lost to PAOK. That loss to the Greek side however is their only defeat at home all season, with six wins and six draws in Serie A.

Both teams confident of a result

Like Gladbach had last Thursday, Fiorentina were left ruing missed chances in their game in Milan, with defender Davide Astori keen for the side to bounce straight back. “We need to improve because we gave goals away too cheaply and we didn’t cause them enough problems with the chances we created,” he said after that match.

His team mate Carlos Sánchez meanwhile has called for the side to repeat their efforts from the first leg against Gladbach. “We have to deal with this game with the same spirit we showed over there,” he said on Wednesday. He also claimed that it was “important” for the side to progress, and that “if we can do what we’ve worked on we’ll have a good chance of going through.”

Speaking before boarding the plane to Florence from Düsseldorf the Gladbach players were confident of progressing to the last-16. “It will be difficult but the game is still there for the taking,” said full-back Oscar Wendt. “If we can get the first goal then anything is possible.”

“It is effectively half time there are still 90 minutes to play,” added Jonas Hofmann, who believes the remaining 90 minutes are “more than enough time to score two goals and turn the tie around.”

Head coach Hecking admits that the hosts will have the advantage, but believes his side just need to create as many chances as they did at Borussia-Park. “Working on our efficiency in front of goal will be decisive,” he explained, “but we’re confident and will do everything to turn this result around.”

Raffael set to return

Fiorentina’s coach Paolo Sousa will have a full team to choose from, with the toughest decision being over who might play on the right-wing of their 3-4-2-1 formation. Cristian Tello started the first leg and may therefore be restored to the line-up ahead of Federico Chiesa, who started against Milan.

Bernardeschi will likely also return to the side after being suspended for the Milan game, whilst former Hamburger SV midfielder Milan Badelj will also be hoping to retain his place from the opening half of the tie.

Hecking’s side have been boosted by the return of striker Raffael, who has missed the last four games with a thigh problem. “There’s no more pain, things are looking good” said the Brazilian after completing his first training session on Tuesday, and he was amongst the 22 players to fly to Italy, although Hecking was non-committal on whether he would start.

There are no further injury concerns for the Foals, with only longer-term absentees Ibrahima Traoré, Mamadou Doucouré and Marvin Schulz missing out. Hecking believes his players have shown no sign of fatigue from the weekend, although one possible change could see Patrick Herrmann start, as he did in the first leg.

Predicted line-ups

AFC Fiorentina: (3-4-2-1) Tatarusanu; Sánchez, Astorl, Rodríguez; Tello, Vecino, Badelj, Olivera; Bernardeschi, Valero; Kalinic.

Borussia Mönchengladbach: (4-4-2) Sommer, Jantschke, Vestergaard, Christensen, Wendt; Herrmann, Dahoud, Kramer, Hazard; Raffael, Stindl.

Quotes via ACF Fiorentina, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Football Italia.