Europa League: Fiorentina boss Paulo Sousa battles former club Basel
There is plenty of intrigue surrounding this Tuscan-set dust-up, as new Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa hosts his former side Basel for Viola’s first fixture in Europa League Group I.
As the Italians, odds-on 10/11 match favourites with Coral, only fell at the semi-final hurdle last time out in this tournament under previous post incumbent Vincenzo Montella, much of the perception of Sousa’s season will rest on how well he acquits himself on the continent.
The Swiss Super League visitors, who enjoyed a surprise run in the Champions League last term, scalping Liverpool before being ousted in the last 16 by Porto, should feel no fear on Tuscan turf.
Despite celebrating a league title under Sousa in his one campaign at the club, the Basel boys have carried on their formidable form since the Portuguese gaffer, famous for coaching stints with Swansea City and Leicester City, departed their dugout.
New St Jakob-Park boss Urs Fischer has taken his charges on a 12-game unbeaten run across all competitions, also opening up a seven-point cushion at the top of the Swiss Super League. So, Basel are certainly worth backing at 5/2 to squeeze a draw, with 16/5 their outsider odds for a famous away victory.
Though lynchpins and namesakes Fabian Frei and Fabian Schar both made Bundesliga moves in summer, Basel are not short on star quality. Attacking Austrian Bosman capture Marc Janko has proven a potent punt so far, while attacking midfielders that could pose Fiorentina a threat include creative Albania international Shkelzen Gashi and Japan’s Yoichiro Kakitani.
Despite Basel’s penchant for stealing big scalps, punters may still fancy Fiorentina due to the superior armoury of the Serie A side, who are better value at 11/5 to win to nil.
Viola have started the term fairly well with two triumphs at the Artemio Franchi, and should prove strong on home soil again.
Senegalese striker Khouma Babacar has had to convince for his place, but bagged last time out alongside USA-born Italy international Giuseppe Rossi, who has been slowly returning to the fold following a long-term injury lay-off. On-loan wing wizard Jakub Blaszczykowski of Borussia Dortmund is another to watch out for, though the new arrival may only feature from the bench in this battle for both pride and points.
Betting tip: Stubborn sides Fiorentina and Basel @ 5/2 to draw is a worthy wager