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Feb 28, 2014

Juve and Fiorentina set for triple-header

FC's Gab Marcotti previews the Europa League encounter between Fiorentina and Juventus.

Juventus and Fiorentina are preparing to meet each other three times in 12 days after both Serie A sides booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night.

Juve completed a 4-0 aggregate victory over Trabzonspor to keep their hopes alive of a home final in the Juventus Stadium in May while Fiorentina did enough to complete a 4-2 aggregate victory over Esbjerg with a 1-1 draw in Florence.

Preparations can now begin for what promises to be a fortnight of intense footballing rivalry, both on and off the field, after setting up a tie which both clubs would have preferred to avoid, at least at this stage of the competition.

"I would have preferred it if we could both go through because Italian football gets defined as 'less attractive' compared to other countries, but that's not true," said Juve coach Antonio Conte.

"The kind of football we played was an advert for Italian football, but Montella's Fiorentina are tough opponents."

That, the Viola proved earlier this season when a hat-trick from Giuseppe Rossi saw them recover from two goals down to become the one and only side to have beaten the Bianconeri in Serie A this season, triumphing 4-2 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella is nevertheless expecting a tough 12 days, which starts on March 9 with the Serie A clash at the Juventus Stadium.

"Juve are the strongest side in Italy," Montella said. "They're dominating for the third year in a row and it's going to be difficult for us. Of all the possible opponents, Juve are the last I would have chosen. But we'll give it a go, aware that they're tough opponents."

The main question now is whether both sides will field their strongest sides for what will be three prestigious games, with the stakes high in each 90 minutes. Conte rotated his side, successfully, for both legs against Trabzonspor while Montella only made a few alterations against the Danes.

"It's clear that Conte has to rotate the entire squad he has available, and I agree totally with him," Juve's general manager Beppe Marotta told Sky. "The further we go, the more games we have, hopefully also in the Europa League, so it's only natural."

Montella also hinted he may make more changes in future: "Now we have a few more players back, which enables us to rotate scientifically, to make sure we have the best players for each game."

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