After the qualification process, in Lazio’s case meaning having to beat Mura 05 of Slovenia, it is now time to enter the group phase of the Europa League. The first game for the Romans is also regarded the toughest one, as the team travels to London to face the Tottenham Spurs.
The visitors have started the season more positively than many had anticipated after having brought on a new coach in the summer. So far the team has not been tested against any of the toughest oppositions though, so the visit to White Hart Lane will be biggest challenge for the Bosnian head coach this season. Speculations over the possible starting eleven are many, but with the coach having stated that Europa League will not be treated as a secondary tournament the expectations are that Lazio will field the strongest possible eleven against the Englishmen.
Also Tottenham shifted trainers over the summer, with the Portuguese Villas Boas entering the club after having been sacked at Chelsea within the first year of his appointment. The team collected its first win for the season at the weekend when Reading was beaten, having managed two draws and a loss before that. The Lilywhites finished fourth in the 2011/2012 season and would have booked a place in the Champions League had it not been for city rivals Chelsea winning the tournament and sent Tottenham to the Europa League.
The game is expected to be a tense affair. Approximately 2000 Lazio supporters are going to be present and games between Italian and English sides tend to turn into fiery encounters. The two teams have never faced each other in European competitions previously, but there will be plenty of players knowing each other’s style of play despite this fact. Lazio’s newest signing Ciani will face former team mate Kaboul, Ederson and Lloris spent some years together in Nice and Carlo Cudicini used to play for the Romans before moving over to the British Isle. Added to that, Lazio striker Klose has been reported to have been on the wish list of the English side in the summer, something that has also been reported about Hernanes. Add to that the Lazio legend Paul Gascoigne and the fact that he used to play for Tottenham Hotspurs before joining Lazio and the game becomes even more interesting for some. All of this promises an encounter that will have that little extra to it on Thursday.
Lazio will have to do without Konko, who picked up an injury against Chievo on Sunday, while Lulic is expected to make his way back and will most likely replace an injured Radu at the left back. It remains to be seen how many of the starters in that game will feature again and so far the reports from the team ahead of the game are not many, but the promise from the coach is that the players most ready for the game will be the ones getting included in the starting eleven – no player will be rested if fit and ready for 90 minutes. However, the fact both teams are competing on many fronts this season demands squad rotation and in the middle of a hectic period game-wise this will most probably be the case tomorrow evening. One of the major points of discussion amongst Laziali have been to play Ciani, Ederson and/or Zarate in the European competition, but with a Lazio that is cruising in the domestic league it will be hard for the tactician to justify major changes to a winning side.
Tottenham have added quality players to their side and many argue the team is stronger this season despite losing key-figure Modric to Real Madrid. Dempsey and Dembele, as well as previously mentioned Lloris, have been added to a side that already had qualities such as Lennon, Bale and Adebayor, to mention a few. Also Villas Boas early underlined that his men will not be taking the tournament lightly and that the he is expecting to take his team far in the tournament.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Verthongen, Naughton, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Dembele, Sandro, Bale, Adebayor.
Lazio: Marchetti, Scaloni, Dias, Biava, Lulic, Ledesma, Cana, Hernanes, Mauri, Candreva, Klose.