West Ham United v Fiorentina: match preview

It is with much relief that we bring you the final Preview Percy of the season. And it's a Conference League Final "Special". Which just means that he will probably say something in another language. Badly. Here's his final look at our opponents Fiorentina...

Ahoj všichni, or should I say hello everyone. Next up we face Fiorentina in the Wednesday Night Final of the Thursday Night Conference League. Kick-off is at 8pm UK time or 9pm if you are one of the lucky ones to be going over there. BT Sport has the rights and the programme will be available even if you haven't got a subscription to their channels. There are fan parks aplenty all over the place as well and I'm sure if you ask mine host nicely they will put it on for you.

So Fiorentina then. Their route to this stage was similar to ours with only the added inconvenience of an extra knockout round to negotiate on the way. They started out in a group comprising Latvians RFS, Hearts and the team from Istanbul nobody can remember or spell because they aren't Fenerbahce or Galatasaray.

Given that level of opposition it should have been a cakewalk to qualify in top position and give themselves the luxury of an extra couple of weeks break from Thursday Night football. However, they were possibly a bit undercooked at the start of the season, with RFS coming away from Florence with a 1-1 draw. The next week they got thoroughly walloped 3-0 in Istanbul which must have set off a couple of murmurs.

Of course whenever you need a boost and three easy points it's useful to have Scottish opponents lined up to get you back on the right path. Back to back wins - 3-0 in Edinburgh and 5-1 in Florence – saw them back on track. A 3-1 defeat of the Turks at home was followed by a 3-0 win in Riga to see them qualify. The early bumps in the road were not without their consequences though as the Turks topped the group on goal difference.

The second place saw them face a play-off round against Portugal's Braga. This round was all but put to bed in the first leg when they went to Braga and won 4-0. The second leg 3-2 home win was interesting for a bit as Braga raced into a 2-0 lead within 35 minutes but that was about as good as it got with Fiorentina pulling one back before the interval, equalising before the hour and netting a late winner just before the close.

The draw for the last 16 was kind to them, taking them to Turkey where they faced Sivasspor. The first leg in Florence was slightly cagey, with Fiorentina scoring a 69th minute winner. The return leg in Sivas actually saw the Turks take the lead but four unanswered goals made the tie a lot more comfortable than it looked like being at one stage.

From Turkey to Poland where they thought the hard work had been done in the first leg against Lech Posznan as they took a 4-1 lead back to Italy. However, the Poles had other ideas and led 3-0 with 12 minutes left on the clock. However a late brace spared them both extra time and blushes and put them through 6-4 on aggregate.

That theme of not making it easy for themselves carried over to the semi-finals where FC Basel came from behind in Florence to take a 2-1 lead across the Alps. The second leg was a bit of a thriller. Fiorentina went 2-1 up on 72 minutes to bring the tie level. Extra time happened and with 11 minutes left the game was stopped due to a medical emergency in the crowd – we understand that the supporter was ok but it looked serious at the time. When play resumed Fiorentina hit the winner in the 10th minute of stoppage time to sent them through to Wednesday's final.

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Incidentally whilst Daisy was looking up the details of that semi-final a misplaced click saw us alight on the website of a Basel's Restaurant Fiorentina. I bet that place was rocking on semi-final night.

Domestically it's been a bit of a mixed bag. They finished 8th in Serie A with 56 points from the 38 played. Their wins have come in clusters rather than consistently over the season – five in a row from February to April, culminating in a 1-0 defeat of Inter in the San Siro being the best run. However it's been a bit of a mixed bag since then with their last ten providing four wins, four draws and two defeats.

Top scorer is Arthur Cabral. The Brazilian arrived in January 2022 from, of all clubs, FC Basel for a fee rising to a potential €16.5m with add-ons. Basel only got 70% of that with the player's previous two Brazilian clubs being on an earner. Cabral has 16 goals in 27 across all competitions this season.

Daisy's tip for danger man is Nicolas Gonzales. The right winger was on target twice in the second leg of the semi-final and is described as a tricky little blighter with a decent bit of pace. He was in the original squad for the World Cup last winter but pulled out a few days before the start with injury. He's been a regular in the Argentina side over the past few years with 22 caps in the wardrobe to date.

They've chopped and changed a bit in the goalkeeping area. Pierluigi Gollini (not to be confused with the similarly-named slaphead referee) came in on loan from Atalanta and was the original first choice custodian. However he switched over to being the first choice on Thursday night, playing in five of the six group matches. He returned to Atalanta en route to another loan spell at Napoli. Pietro Terracciano has played in three of the four subsequent matches and one would expect him to be between the sticks on Wednesday.

Shall we have a quick look at the Wild and Wacky World Of Association Football? And congratulations to Sevilla on yet another Europa League win, thus proving that they can win it time and time again, as long as we aren't in it.

The final against Roma was a niggly affair and gave ref Anthony Taylor a busy evening, the highlight of which was his awarding a yellow card for a blatant dive. Ref-watchers up and down the country were seen to faint at the sight, Taylor having not shown the slightest inkling that he knew what a dive was despite having spent 13 years in the so-called select group.

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Roma manager Mourinho was predictably forthright, likening Taylor's performance to what we will refer to as Bovine Excrement. If UEFA fine him it won't be the most surprising fine of Mourinho's life – of the £300k+ in fines he paid in this country approximately £75k came from matches involving Taylor either as referee or 4th official.

And so to us. Well the amount of damns given about last week's result could be gauged by the mood of the away support who were in prime mickey-taking party mode. As mentioned last week Leicester were the side many people least wanted to go down, mainly because they aren't Everton or Leeds. However, hereabouts we do reserve a particular circle of hell for clubs that play music after goals, something that had the proverbial ripped out of it by the 3,000 Hammers present.

A little less profligacy in front of goal from us would have made results elsewhere academic – despite ref Hooper doing all he could to assist the Foxes. The foul on Antonio in the box that wasn't given was identical to the one that was up the other end that led to their second. And Hooper's attitude to advantage was to prevent it accruing whenever we looked lively.

We have pretty much a full squad to choose from bar Luca Scamacca, which is good news. The players have been enjoying a few days in the Algarve and look relaxed which is no bad thing.

So to the prediction then. On most levels this will be a difficult one to gauge – the two sides are similar all over. However, this is a bit different.

It's a Cup Final and in honour of those who are no longer with us to be there I am going to throw not only the £2.50 I got for selling one of those stupid clapper things I found in the street to a tearful 10-year-old female Leicester fan on the way back to the station, but also £2.50 from my own pocket on a win to us. Daisy, please pop down to Mr Winstone's and put it all on us to win 2-1.

Enjoy the game!

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When last we met in a final: Lost 0-2 on aggregate (Anglo Italian League Cup 1975)

One for the anoraks here. The Anglo Italian League Cup – not to be confused with the Anglo Italian Cup – was a bit of an odd one. In 1969, Swindon beat Arsenal in the League Cup final. At the time the winners of that competition went into what was called the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, the competition that was later renamed the UEFA Cup to save on injuries to typists. Look, try and keep up, there will be questions later.

Anyway Swindon were barred from the Fairs Cup on account of them being a third-tier club. So someone came up with the Anglo Italian League Cup. Swindon beat Roma over two legs with the cup being won by Bologna in 1970 and Tottenham in 1971. Realising that any trophy capable of being won by Spurs was probably not worth the bother they shelved the tournament for a few years, resurrecting it for 1975 when it was played between the respective Cup Winners from each country.

In our case the matches were used to get valuable experience of European football. We lost the first leg out there in September, an off-form Mervyn Day letting through a tame shot from Guerni. The second leg in December was much the same, Speggiorin's effort representing a rare departure from the ultra-defensive tactics much beloved of Italian teams in the 1970s.

Referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande

Remember when Leicester were in Europe? This official handled their match against Roma. Badly.

Danger Man: Arthur Cabral

Brazilian striker who is their top scorer with 16.

Percy & Daisy's Poser-Type Thing

Last Week we brought you a headline from the Leeds Live website:

Leeds hit by XXXXXXXX XXXXX as awful XXXXXXX XXXXXX engulfs city

Last time out we asked how many bags of crisps Walkers produce each day before putting them in the wrong colour bags?

Well done to Mrs Maud Golden-Wonder of Manningtree who, for some odd reason, knew that the company churns out 11m packets a day of the beer soak-ups every day.

No poser for this one – I won't be able to remember the question by August!

Stay safe!

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