Fiorentina and West Ham United Battle for Europa Conference League Glory (1 Viewer)

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Fiorentina and West Ham United are set to clash in the eagerly anticipated Europa Conference League final at Prague's Fortuna Arena, with both clubs aiming to end their long trophy droughts. Fiorentina's last major silverware came 22 years ago, while West Ham has waited almost twice as long. As the inaugural winners Roma pass on the torch, the top-scoring Fiorentina faces the unbeaten West Ham in a thrilling showdown.

For Fiorentina, this final marks their return to a European final after three decades since their defeat to Juventus in the 1990 UEFA Cup showpiece. The club will also make history by becoming the first to feature in all four UEFA club competition finals. Their impressive journey to Prague includes an outstanding performance in this season's Europa Conference League, where they comfortably emerged as the leading scorers with 36 goals in 14 games. Notably, Fiorentina has been exceptional on their European away trips, netting at least three goals in each of their last six matches.

While Fiorentina lost three matches during the campaign, finishing as runners-up in Group A, they overcame challenges from Braga, Sivasspor, and Lech Poznan in the knockout stages. Their hard-fought victory over Basel in the semi-finals, secured in extra time with Antonin Barak's late winner, propelled them to the opportunity of becoming Italy's consecutive Conference League winners.

Having finished eighth in Serie A, Fiorentina's domestic season ended on a positive note with three wins in their last four matches, including a 3-1 victory over Sassuolo. However, their hopes of qualifying for European football next season depend on the potential banning of Juventus from UEFA competitions. With direct entry to the 2023-24 Europa League group stage at stake, Wednesday's final against West Ham carries even greater significance.

Fiorentina's continental title drought dates back to the 1961 European Cup-Winners' Cup, while West Ham's last triumph came four years later in the same competition when they defeated 1860 Munich 2-0 at Wembley. Neither side has lifted a UEFA trophy since, but West Ham has endured the longest trophy drought, spanning 43 years since their FA Cup victory in 1980. Despite several near-misses domestically and a Europa League semi-final exit last season, the experienced David Moyes has guided West Ham to the Conference League final, navigating challenging circumstances.

Under Moyes' leadership, West Ham has demonstrated resilience and an unbeaten record throughout the European campaign. Despite not always fielding their strongest side, the Hammers emerged victorious in Group B and comfortably defeated AEK Larnaca and Gent in the knockout stages. However, their semi-final clash with AZ Alkmaar was marred by crowd trouble, threatening to overshadow their achievement. Nonetheless, they secured their spot in the final.

West Ham's European success contrasts with their inconsistent domestic form, culminating in a 14th-place finish in the Premier League after a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City on the final day. Some speculate that Moyes' future and that of his coaching staff may hinge on the outcome of the final, considering the significant investment made last summer with minimal impact. Nevertheless, triumph in Prague could cement Moyes' position and relieve the burden of West Ham's trophy drought.

Fiorentina's manager, Vincenzo Italiano, has been hailed for his attractive playing style and revitalization of the club. However, the pressure mounts for him to deliver silverware, as Fiorentina's last major trophy was the Coppa Italia in 2001. The disappointment of losing this year's cup final against Inter has intensified the desire.

INJURIES & SUSPENSIONS

Once again, Vincenzo Italiano opted to rotate his Fiorentina squad over the weekend, prioritizing the freshness of key players for Wednesday's highly anticipated final. With the majority of the squad available, Italiano faces the task of selecting his strongest starting XI.

The only player sidelined by injury is backup goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, while Nicolas Gonzalez is expected to be fit to start despite his collision with the goalpost while scoring Fiorentina's final goal of the Serie A season.

Gonzalez, who also scored twice in last month's victory over Basel, is likely to provide support to central striker Arthur Cabral from the right flank. However, other positions in Italiano's attacking lineup remain up for grabs.

One player in contention is Czech playmaker Antonin Barak, who notably scored the winning goal in the semi-final and previously played for final hosts Slavia Prague before moving to Italy.

For West Ham, both Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal have history at the Fortuna Arena from their time at the same club, and they are expected to feature prominently in the midweek final.

As captain, Declan Rice will likely bid farewell to his Hammers career before departing for new challenges this summer, anchoring the midfield alongside Soucek. In goal, cup goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is set to replace Premier League regular Lukasz Fabianski.

The only notable absentee for West Ham will be Gianluca Scamacca, who recently underwent knee surgery. With his absence, Michail Antonio is expected to lead the line as the team's primary striker without much competition for his position.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS

Fiorentina possible starting lineup:
Terracciano; Dodo, Martinez Quarta, Milenkovic, Biraghi; Amrabat, Mandragora; Gonzalez, Bonaventura, Ikone; Cabral

West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Areola; Kehrer, Aguerd, Zouma, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma; Antonio

EXPERT PREDICTION

Fiorentina 2-3 West Ham
An intriguing encounter awaits as Fiorentina is unlikely to deviate from their principles and could adopt an attacking approach against West Ham. Both teams are eager to secure silverware, setting the stage for a potentially intense and hard-fought battle.

In this contest, West Ham's ability to maintain defensive discipline may ultimately prove to be the decisive factor, coupled with their significant threat from set-pieces. The outcome of the match hangs delicately in the balance, promising an exciting clash between two determined sides.
 

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