With a place in the Europa Conference League group stage at stake, Fiorentina and FC Twente meet twice across seven days, with Thursday’s first leg being hosted in Florence.
Neither side has dropped a point at the start of their domestic season, and the pair now clash in the playoffs of Europe’s newest club competition.
As a result of their impressive comeback campaign in 2021-22, Fiorentina return to continental competition for the first time in six years, and they kick off their bid to reach the Conference League’s group phase at their fortress, Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The Viola got their Serie A season under way on Sunday, as they edged out promoted Cremonese in a 3-2 victory at the grand old stadium, with summer signing Luka Jovic scoring on his debut before the hosts were gifted a fortunate winner deep into stoppage time.
An upturn in fortunes saw Fiorentina finish seventh in Serie A last term, after threatening to break up the established order at the top of the table, and Vincenzo Italiano‘s side put together Italy’s second-best home record in the process.
Only runners-up Inter accrued more points in home games than the Tuscan club in 2021-22, and 14 wins from their last 20 league fixtures at the Franchi demonstrates the task now facing Twente.
Italiano’s arrival last year brought a more progressive style of play, and Fiorentina have since established themselves as one of the most engaging teams in Serie A.
During the current transfer window, the former Spezia coach has added to his squad by signing midfielder Rolando Mandragora, Brazilian full-back Dodo and Jovic.
The latter replaces loan striker Krzysztof Piatek and last term’s top scorer Dusan Vlahovic – who left in January – as the Viola’s main man up front, and will now hope to replicate his prolific campaign of 2018-19, when the Serbian striker scored 10 times in 14 Europa League games for Eintracht Frankfurt.
After a similarly strong season to their Italian hosts, Twente finished fourth in the Eredivisie last term and qualified for a first return to Europe in eight years.
The Enschede side breezed past Cukaricki with a resounding 7-2 aggregate victory in their third qualifying round tie earlier this month, with Michel Vlap and Christos Tzolis both notching twice across the two legs.
During that time, the Tukkers also kicked off their league campaign by beating NEC Nijmegen 1-0, and they then followed that up with a consummate showing against Fortuna Sittard on Sunday.
Ron Jans saw his team rewarded for their dominant display with a 3-0 home win, with veteran striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel opening the scoring, and they have now won each of their last six matches.
Four victories since returning to competitive action, allied to beating both Bologna and Schalke in pre-season, therefore means that Twente travel to Tuscany fully confident of causing an upset.
After a surprising selection in Fiorentina’s season-opener on Sunday, Vincenzo Italiano could recall some of last season’s regulars to join a handful of summer signings in the starting XI.
Nicolas Gonzalez and Jonathan Ikone could feature at the expense of Christian Kouame and Riccardo Sottil in the front three, but new boys Pierluigi Gollini and Luka Jovic will expect to keep their places.
Having been an unexpected pick at right-back, Marco Benassi is set to make way for either Lorenzo Venuti or another recent arrival, Dodo. The latter was involved in more goals than any defender during his last two seasons in Ukraine: registering two goals and nine assists for Shakhtar Donetsk.
Meanwhile, Gaetano Castrovilli and Igor remain absent through injury, but Alfred Duncan may be fit enough for inclusion in the squad.
FC Twente will be without captain Wout Brama again due to a groin injury, so should remain unchanged in midfield on Thursday.
Wingers Christos Tzolis and Vaclav Cerny were rested at the weekend, but are likely to be drafted back into the forward line; supporting Ricky van Wolfswinkel up front.
Fiorentina possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Dodo, Milenkovic, Martinez Quarta, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Amrabat, Mandragora; Gonzalez, Jovic, Ikone
FC Twente possible starting lineup:
Unnerstall; Brenet, Hilgers, Propper, Smal; Zerrouki, Sadilek; Cerny, Vlap, Tzolis; Van Wolfswinkel