So, remember how the winner of the Europa League gets into the Champions League next season? Wouldn't it be cool if we could do that? Well, the path to doing so starts on Thursday as Tottenham take on Italian side Fiorentina. We've already talked a little smack about our purple clad foes, so now it's time for real serious journalism. Hold onto your butts ladies and gents, things are about to get heavy in here.
For today's installment of Know Your opponent I chatted with Chloe Beresford of SB Nation's Viola Nation about all things purple. Chloe was kind enough to endure my ignorance of Italian football and was smart enough to ignore most of my poor attempts at banter. Probably because she takes her job much more seriously than I do. Anyways, here are my questions for her and her answers. Check out Viola Nation for Ryan-Mason-insult free answers to her questions.
Cartilage Free Captain: So, Fiorentina are currently in fourth in Serie A, what's the state of the Viola Nation at this point? Are the fans pleased with the way the season has gone so far?
Chloe Beresford: I think most fans are extremely happy with where we are right now, sitting in 4th place in Serie A and ready to challenge for the Europa League and Coppa Italia. We had a mixed bag of results until the winter break, then lost the first game back 1-0 away to Parma on 6th Jan. That was a real low point, but since then haven't looked back. We unbeaten in 8 games and have beaten AS Roma over 2 legs to advance to a Coppa Italia semi-final with Juventus. Confidence is high after Saturday's great performance and convincing victory over Sassuolo.
CFC: Fiorentina just sold their best player, Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea for a lot of money. All you got back was Momo Salah. Do you feel like you got ripped off?
CB: No, I don't feel that way at all. Don't get me wrong, losing Cuadrado was a real wrench - he is a special player and I think Fiorentina fans will always miss him to some extent. Despite this, receiving Salah on loan plus Cuadrado's release fee of €35 million was a good piece of business. Cuadrado is at the peak of his value and the terms of Salah's loan deal are extremely favourable. Chelsea are reportedly paying his wages until the end of this season, with the option to extend for a further season. There is an apparent pre agreed fee for signing him permanently, if desired, in summer 2016. Salah seems to have settled in straight away. He made his full debut on Saturday, scoring one goal and creating another. If he can continue his form, this particular piece of business will seem very astute.
CFC: In the summer of 2013, I argued with one of the writers on our site over whether Spurs should pursue Roberto Soldado or Mario Gomez (I wanted Gomez). Gomez signed with Fiorentina first and then we signed Soldado only to crush his soul and leave him the shell of a striker he once was. How did you all manage to do the same to Gomez?
CB: Mario has had a difficult time at Fiorentina. After his long injury, he looked a shadow of his former self. His lowest point came after a missed penalty against Parma in January and a terrible performance. Even Vincenzo Montella seemed to suggest that he had lost his way. Since then his former self seems to be re-emerging, although we are not out of the woods yet. The second leg of the Coppa Italia quarter final saw him seal the victory with 2 goals, and more importantly his body language had markedly improved. I'm hoping that Thursday night will see the continuation of his rehabilitation!
CFC: So without Cuadrado, who is the danger man for Fiorentina? Is it former Football Manager must-buy Khouma Babacar?
CB: If I were you, I would be worried. A goal could come from anywhere in the Fiorentina team. We have 15 different goalscorers in Serie A this season, more than any other team. We also have Mario Gomez returning to form, plus last Saturday we had the Salah and Babacar show!
CFC: Fiorentina have only allowed 23 goals in 23 Serie A games, the third lowest total in the league. Does that mean you guys are going to come to London and park the bus? If not, why aren't you? That almost always works against us.
CB: I would think that away from home, the game plan will be to hold Spurs for as long as possible and play on the counter attack. That strategy worked perfectly away to Roma, and we won that game 2-0.
CFC: Fill in the blank: If ________ happens, Fiorentina will definitely win this match. (No cheap answers like "score more goals than Spurs". That's cheating).
CB: If we can contain Harry Kane and reproduce some of the quality shown going forward on Saturday, Fiorentina will definitely win this match.
CFC: Finally, what's your prediction for Thursday's match?
CB: I think there is potential for goals from both sides and my heart says a win, but my head says a 2-2 draw.
Thanks again to Chloe for sitting down and chatting with me. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeJBeresford. You can also follow @Viola_Nation if you have a passion for small, purple string instruments. Good luck to Fiorentina, a HarryKane is coming for you.