Fiorentina began their journey to Thursday’s Europa League last 16 first leg against Juventus in the qualifying play-offs towards the end of August.
In fact, Vincenzo Montella’s men didn’t make the most auspicious start: they only reached the group stage on away goals, losing 1-0 at home to Grasshoppers after securing a 2-1 away win in Switzerland that eventually proved enough. A Juan Cuadrado strike and a Stephane Grichting own-goal earned the Viola one of the 48 spots in the next phase of the competition.
Nonetheless, once there, they comfortably topped Group E with five wins and a draw.
Ukrainians Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk provided their only real opposition, with Pacos de Ferreira and Pandurii Targu Jiu finishing the campaign with just three and two points respectively.
Fiorentina kicked off the group phase with a 3-0 win over Pacos de Ferreira and went on to win all of their next three before being held to a goalless draw with the Portuguese away from home. To finish, a 2-1 triumph over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk that gave them momentum as they prepared to enter the Round of 32.
Danish side Esbjerg awaited, and Montella’s team quickly put themselves on the front foot in the tie as former Juve men Alessandro Matri and Alberto Aquilani got on the scoresheet alongside Josep Ilicic in a 3-1 first-leg away win.
But, just as in the playoff, they performed better on the road than at home, setting up the clash with Juventus by drawing 1-1 in the second leg at the Stadio Artemio Franchi thanks to an Ilicic free-kick.