The key plotlines as the competition's runaway top scorers face a side who have proved impossible to beat en route to the Europa Conference League final in Prague.
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Fiorentina, top scorers in this season's competition, take on unbeaten West Ham in the 2023 UEFA Europa Conference League final.
In this piece presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the showpiece in Prague on Wednesday 7 June.
The wait of expectation
Fiorentina's only European trophy to date is the 1960/61 European Cup Winners' Cup, when they beat Rangers 4-1 on aggregate in a two-legged final. West Ham won the same trophy four years later, overcoming 1860 München 2-0 in the one-legged decider at Wembley. Neither side has won a UEFA trophy since, though that has not been for want of trying.
The Hammers reached the Cup Winners' Cup final again in 1975/76 but lost 4-2 to Anderlecht. Beaten European Cup finalists in 1956/57, the Viola went on to lose to Atlético in the 1961/62 Cup Winners' Cup showpiece and went down 3-1 on aggregate to Serie A rivals Juventus in their most recent final appearance, in the 1989/90 UEFA Cup. In Prague they will become the first side to feature in all four major UEFA club competition finals.
The irresistible force vs the immovable object
Vincenzo Italiano's Fiorentina have outscored all comers in the Europa Conference League, their 36 goals in 14 games a full nine more than West Ham – though the Hammers took just 12 games to score their 27. Of those goals, 21 were scored away from Florence; they have netted at least three in their last six Conference League away matches, winning each of them. The Viola's Arthur Cabral is the campaign's joint-top scorer with seven goals, and three of his team-mates have hit five or more.
For all of their goalscoring firepower, however, Fiorentina have lost three games in this season's competition, while David Moyes's West Ham have won 11 of their 12 games in the campaign, drawing the other one. Individual performances have not always been sparkly, but 'effective' has been the watchword, with captain Declan Rice well aware that the big occasion may suit a team with cool heads: "Hopefully we can go out with a bang and look back on a positive season."
The Prague connection
Signed from Verona in the winter after a successful loan spell, 28-year-old midfielder Antonín Barák was the hero of Fiorentina's semi-final success against Basel, poking in what proved to be the winning goal deep into added time in the second half of extra time in Switzerland. His reward will be the opportunity to show his team-mates around a city and a stadium that he knows well. "It is a great emotion, especially for me as the final is in Prague," said the Czech international, who played for final host club Slavia Praha in 2016/17 prior to moving to Italy.
West Ham, though, have plenty of Slavia connections too; right-back Vladimír Coufal played for the club from 2018 to 2020 while midfielder Tomáš Souček first signed for Slavia as a ten-year-old and played for the senior team from 2014 to 2020 prior to joining the Hammers. Souček remains a major cult figure at Slavia, famously joining his former team-mates by video call wearing the club's shirt as they celebrated a 2-0 UEFA Europa League success against Leicester in 2020/21.
Where is the 2023 UEFA Europa Conference League final being played?
The Eden Arena in Prague, Czechia, has been selected to host this season's Europa Conference League final on 7 June 2023.
The 2013 UEFA Super Cup took place at the Eden Arena, with Bayern defeating Chelsea 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes. A showpiece game also went the distance two years later in the 2015 Under-21 EURO final, Sweden seeing off Portugal 4-3 on spot kicks.