UEFA.com's team reporters consider the key factors that could decide the UEFA Europa Conference League final between Fiorentina and West Ham in Prague.
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As we gear up for the UEFA Europa Conference League final between Fiorentina and West Ham, UEFA.com reporters Paolo Menicucci and Lynsey Hooper consider some key factors that could decide who claims the trophy.
The Viola's established principles
Fiorentina like to have the ball and build patiently from the back, launching attacks from the wing. Coach Vincenzo Italiano is unlikely to change that style in Prague. It carries some risks against a counterattacking side, but Fiorentina may feel they have to take risks if they are to win this trophy.
Perhaps more crucially, the Viola have to avoid lapses in concentration. They have dominated plenty of games for 60 or 70 minutes this season, only to stumble in the closing stages. In the quarter-final second leg against Lech Poznań, they conceded in the 65th and 69th minutes and only avoided elimination thanks to two late goals. In the semi-final return game against Basel, they shipped two goals in the last 20 minutes after controlling the contest. West Ham will be encouraged by that. Focus will be necessary for 90 minutes, or more.
Fiorentina captain's set-piece marvels
Fiorentina have plenty of good scoring options, with strikers Arthur Cabral (seven goals) and Luka Jović (six) among the tournament's top scorers, but plenty more goals have come from midfielders and wingers. In a tight affair, as finals often are, set pieces could be decisive, and Cristiano Biraghi's left foot may represent something of a concealed weapon.
Biraghi has delivered five assists in Europe this season and can go direct from dead-ball situations too. The Viola captain scored a free-kick from 57.91m against Salernitana on 3 May, and last season became only the second player to score with two direct free-kicks in a Serie A game, against Genoa. In Europe, he found the the top corner with a wonderful curled effort against Hearts on Matchday 4.
Paolo Menicucci, Fiorentina reporter
West Ham's high turnovers and steely defence
West Ham have been lethal on the counterattack in Europe this term. They have forced the most high turnovers of any team in this season's competition and have scored three goals from fast breaks, so using the speed and guile of attacking players such as Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paquetá and Michail Antonio could be the key to victory here.
If quick breaks are their most effective route to goal, West Ham are also going to need to stay switched on defensively when facing this Fiorentina side. The Italian outfit have scored 36 goals in 14 games in the Europa Conference League this season, at least five more than any other side in this season's men's club competitions, including Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League (31 goals in 12 games).
The Rice factor and the Prague connection
West Ham captain Declan Rice has shown great consistency and topped this season's Premier League rankings for possession won, regaining the ball 334 times (33 more than Man City's Rodri in second). The England international has also added more goals to his game, scoring a career-high four in the league this season.
The Hammers can also call on a bit more local knowledge than their opponents at the Eden Arena. Fiorentina attacking midfielder Antonín Barák spent a couple of seasons at Slavia, but the Hammers' Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal may feel even more at home here. Coufal was a Slavia player for six years, while Souček was on the club's books from boyhood, finally leaving for London in 2020. "It is going to be the biggest game of my career," Souček said. "Plus it will be at Eden in Prague."
Lynsey Hooper, West Ham reporter