Vincenzo Montella will look to mastermind one of the great European comebacks when Fiorentina host Sevilla in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg.
Reigning champions Sevilla took a huge step towards returning to the final with a 3-0 victory in last week’s first encounter at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Unai Emery’s side will now attempt to complete the job in Florence, as Sevilla continue their quest to become the first team to win Europe’s secondary competition on four occasions.
However, history suggests the Andalusian outfit must err on the side of caution. Indeed, in last season’s competition Valencia overturned a 3-0 deficit to progress 5-3 on aggregate in their quarter-final encounter against Basel.
Head coach Montella, whose side recorded back-to-back Serie A victories by beating Empoli 3-2 on Sunday, has not given up the ghost yet.
“On Thursday, we will above all need great self-belief,” he said. “It is my duty to transmit my belief to the team.
“It will be a huge task, but I believe we can do it against Sevilla.”
Part of Sevilla’s success has been the goalscoring potential in their team, with Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro each scoring four times in this year’s Europa League – the latter netting the third goal in last week’s win over Fiorentina.
The form of those two players has meant that on-loan Liverpool man Iago Aspas has been largely restricted to a substitute’s role, but he is revelling in Sevilla’s success this term.
“The team’s season has been very good,” he told EPSN. “We are almost into the final of the Europa League in Warsaw and fighting for fourth place in La Liga.
“I think it is a good season. On an individual level, when things were going best for me, I was starting games, I had an injury and was out for a month.
“It is difficult, as the coach has played almost the whole season with just one forward. Bacca and Gameiro have scored a lot of goals. I have too in the small bit of time I have got to play. But it is difficult. I have done well, but my team-mates have too.”
Sevilla, who are three points adrift of Valencia in the race for fourth in La Liga, travel to Italy with Beto despite the goalkeeper nursing a shoulder injury, but Dani Parejo (knee) is absent.
Fiorentina, the 1990 runners-up, have injury problems of their own to contend with. Micah Richard (hamstring), Manuel Vargas (adductor) and Nenad Tomovic (hip) are all unavailable for Montella.