Tottenham (+220) at Fiorentina (+140), Draw (+240)
The best series in the Europa League’s Round of 32 finds title contenders Tottenham and Fiorentina battling to keep their title hopes alive. Spurs will visit the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the first leg of the two-game aggregate goals series tomorrow (1:00 PM Eastern).
Tottenham are currently 16/1 to win the Europa League, which is good value given their talented roster and success in the EPL, where they currently sit second. Fiorentina, who are third in Serie A at the moment, are 25/1 to win this year’s title.
Spurs dominated during the round-robin portion, winning four of six games (4-1-1) and earning 13 of 18 possible points to top Group J. They’re also coming off one of their best wins of the season; they beat Manchester City (2-1 away), moving them just two points back of Leicester for the league lead.
While some fans would like to see the team focus less on the Europa League in order to give the EPL title chase full attention, manager Mauricio Pochettino thinks his squad can battle hard in both.
“I can understand in England because of our position in the table people think it’s an important opportunity to fight for the Premier League title, but for me when you are a big club you have to fight in every competition and every game,” said the manager in a pre-game press conference.
Fiorentina finished second in Group I with ten points, three back of Basel. Like Spurs, they come into tomorrow’s game on the heels of a solid domestic win; the Viola beat Inter Milan (2-1, home) in Serie A play on the weekend.
The Italian side knows Tottenham will be a tough out, but the Serie A title may already be out of reach (Fiorentina is eight points back of league-leading Juventus), making the Europa League all the more important.
“They have great players, with a strong and deep squad. It’ll be a tough game, but we’ll give our all to get a result. It’s a very important match, definitely one of the most important of my career,” said Fiorentina winger Federico Bernardeschi in a press conference.
On the injury front, Tottenham won’t have goalie Hugo Lloris, who injured his shoulder in the match against Man. City last weekend. Lloris only conceded one goal in the group stage.
“Hugo … is out for tomorrow and maybe out for Sunday,” Pochettino told Spurs TV.
This will be the second straight year the sides have met in the Europa League’s knockout stage. Fiorentina knocked off Tottenham in the quarterfinals last year, winning 2-0 at home and drawing 1-1 at White Hart Lane. But Spurs have improved and can’t be taken lightly. They’ll likely employ a conservative gameplan, looking to earn a point and close things out at home. That makes the draw good value.
Pick: Draw (+240).
(Photo credit: Jon Candy from Cardiff, Wales (DSC04636 Uploaded by Dudek1337) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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