Tottenham’s Premier League title challenge is going strong, with their 2-1 win over Manchester City on Sunday making them real contenders. But their thoughts turn to the UEFA Europa League tonight as they look for revenge over Fiorentina.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men were knocked out of the European competition at the same stage last season by the Italian side. The Florence-based outfit secured a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane in the round of 32 first-leg tie, before defeating Spurs 2-0 in Tuscany.
But both sides have changed significantly in the last 12 months. Fiorentina have replaced Vincenzo Montella in the dugout with former Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Leicester City boss Paulo Sousa, and the likes of Micah Richards and Mario Gomez have departed. Meanwhile, Spurs started Roberto Soldado in the second-leg last year and he has since left White Hart Lane.
Spurs go into the game full of confidence and are currently second in the Premier League. Harry Kane is in great form, while Christian Eriksen looks as though he is back to his best.
However, Tottenham have won only one of their last five European away games – the 1-0 win over Qarabag on matchday five. So Pochettino’s side will be hoping to improve their away record in this year’s competition.
Spurs have reached this stage of the competition for the fourth season in succession, with Fiorentina being the only team to have denied them a place in the last-16. But the Viola will be a tough team to beat, as they reached the semi-finals last term before being knocked out by eventual winners Sevilla. Also, Fiorentina are still unbeaten – and yet to concede a goal – in five home clashes against English opposition.
The hosts finished as runners-up in Group I – behind Sousa’s former club FC Basel – while Spurs topped their group ahead of the likes of Anderlecht and Monaco.
Tottenham will be without goalkeeper Hugo Lloris for the trip to Italy due to a shoulder problem. The France international is also expected to miss their FA Cup fifth round tie with Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Belgian central defender Jan Vertonghen and forward Clinton N’Jie are still absent with knee injuries, but boss Pochettino will be pleased that striker Kane has recovered from a knock sustained in the win at Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina midfielder Milan Badelj will miss the first-leg at the Stadio Artemio Franchi due to a thigh problem. But the remainder of Sousa’s squad is available.
Group Position: Fiorentina – 2nd (Group I), 10 points; Tottenham Hotspur – 1st (Group J), 13 points
Previous Meeting: Fiorentina 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur – February 26, 2015 (Europa League)
Key Men: Fiorentina – Khouma Babacar; Tottenham Hotspur – Harry Kane
Form: Fiorentina – LWDWDW; Tottenham Hotspur – WWWWWW
Shoot Says: Fiorentina 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur