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Soccer: Fiorentina, Juve braced for 'Euro-derby' return

Tie evenly balanced after 1-1 draw in first leg

19 March, 17:00
Soccer: Fiorentina, Juve braced for 'Euro-derby' return (ANSA) - Rome, March 19 - Fiorentina and Juventus meet for the return leg of their Europa League last-16 tie in Florence on Thursday with the situation evenly poised after last week's 1-1 draw in Turin.

The winner will get a place in the quarterfinals and keep alive their hopes of completing a European-domestic double.

Juve lead Serie A by 14 points and look on course to win their third consecutive scudetto under former midfielder Antonio Conte.

They are dreaming of going all the way in Europe's secondary club competition and having home advantage in the final, which be played on May 14 at their plush new stadium, which was opened in 2011.

But their bitter Florentine rivals are also gunning for a double as they have reached the final of the Italian Cup, at which they will be pitched against Napoli.

Juve took the initiative in the first leg and Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal put them in front and also headed against the bar before the break. But Fiorentina came back strongly and Germany striker Mario Gomez equalised on 79 minutes in his first goal since a lengthy injury lay-off.

He scored another to help his team beat Chievo Verona 3-1 in Serie A at the weekend.

"Fiorentina v Juventus will be a match of 1,000 emotions," said Juve's Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci on his website.

"Our opponents have the advantage that they are playing at home. "It'll be a battle, may the best team win".

Thursday's match is the third showdown between the sides in just 12 days.

Juve, who are in the Europa League after exiting the Champions League at the group stage, beat Fiorentina 1-0 in a Serie A match in Turin on March 9.

But Fiorentina came back from two goals down to beat Juve 4-2 in the early-season fixture in October and hand the champions their only league loss this season so far.

Italy's other representative in the Europa League, Napoli, host Porto on Thursday hoping to reverse the 1-0 deficit they suffered in Portugal last week.