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Europa Conference League Final: Fiorentina aim to channel Prague pain into victory

Viola boss hopes defeat to West Ham will help them prepare for Olympiacos in Athens on Wednesday night

Europa Conference League

Vincenzo Italiano hopes Fiorentina can channel the pain of defeat to West Ham 12 months ago into UEFA Europa Conference League glory against Olympiacos.

La Viola came from behind in the 2022/23 final to level against the Londoners before Jarrod Bowen’s 90th-minute winner broke Fiorentina hearts.

The Florence side have lost four of their five European finals, only winning the 1961 Cup Winners Cup, and have not lifted any silverware since the Coppa Italia in 2001.

They will try to end that run against the Greek giants in Athens on Wednesday night and Fiorentina boss Italiano said in his pre-match press conference that his players need to show ‘fury.’

“They are strong, we are strong,” he said, “It’s a 50-50 match, we have a little more experience. Tomorrow we must try to do everything we can to avoid making mistakes, with fire inside, giving everything we have.

“Last year it wasn’t a good ending, we remember that, but now we have more experience and we have to make the most of it.

“We must never lose our identity, that footballing belief, the organisation that has brought us this far (and) fury – competitive fury – that must never be missing.”

Italiano says he remembers the faces of his players after their last gasp defeat to West Ham and insisted: “I don’t want to see them. Prague hurt me, them, and all of Florence. I don’t want to see those faces like that anymore.”

After three successful years with La Viola Italiano’s name has been linked with higher-profile jobs but he insists his future would only be discussed after the final.

“The phone is often turned off,” he said, “it’s silent, and not I’m not interested in hearing about anything other than the final.”

Italiano joked Fiorentina had brought ‘padlocks and chains’ in a bid to keep Moroccan striker Ayoub El Kaabi quiet.

The Olympiacos forward has scored 10 goals in eight Conference League games this season and has netted 32 in 49 appearances in all competitions.

Italiano added: “Both he and the team have made a great journey – like us who reached the final undefeated.

“He is scoring regularly, he is dangerous in the area, outside the area, he attacks deep, so we have studied.”

Despite their opponents playing only 9km away from the city where the final will be held, Italiano is backing the 9,000 travelling Viola fans to hold their own and said the game will be settled on the pitch.

He said: “Yes they play in the city they live in, but the stadium will be half and half. Whoever has the most hunger and fire will win.

“Olympiacos are an excellent opponent but we have done our homework and hope to get the better of them.”

Viola targeting a happier outcome

Captain Cristiano Biraghi admitted he often things about the pain of the defeat to West Ham in Prague a year ago and was desperate to flip the script this season for players, fans and staff alike.

He said: “You always think about it – victory and defeat are such great events that you carry them with you all your life. The bitterness is so much you share it with everyone.

“We did well to return to the final, without having lost and we are ready to give everything – for everyone, even those behind the scenes.”

Giacomo Bonaventura – who scored Fiorentina’s equaliser against the Hammers – said: “I hope to score, but the game must be won. Bringing a trophy to Florence would be nice because it’s difficult and the last one was won many years ago.”

A win for Fiorentina would qualify ninth-placed Torino for UEFA Competition and Italiano said: “We have this responsibility. I have never seen something like this since I have been in football. We will do everything to win also for our friends in Turin.”

Who is favourite for tonight’s clash?

Despite being effectively the way team, Fiorentina are favourites with bet365 offering odds of 7/5 for them to go one better than last year and win inside 90 minutes.

Olympiacos are at 21/10.

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Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.